PoliticsTrump on Trial


Why President Biden won't comment on Trump's indictment anytime soon

Commenting on the indictment of former President Donald Trump could have different political implications for President Joe Biden.
Posted at 8:41 PM, Mar 31, 2023

When it comes to the indictment of former President Donald Trump, one person we can expect to stay mum is President Joe Biden

While departing the White House Friday morning, he declined to weigh in when asked about the case multiple times, sticking to a "no comment" response to questions, including whether he thought the indictment would divide the country, if he was worried about protests, or what the indictment says about the rule of law.

The president is in uncharted territory, and experts say there is no playbook for how to respond to the event of a former president being indicted by a grand jury.

"There's no question that the president will at some point express his disappointment in the behavior of a prominent public official in the United States," said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist.

But, Rosenberg added that the president and the administration have no role in the legal proceedings against Trump and, therefore, have no reason to weigh in right now. 

"Their only real job here is to make sure that everybody stays safe and that the wheels of justice continue to turn," he said. "This is a local prosecutor. It has nothing to do with the federal government or Joe Biden or the White House."

President Biden entered office on the promise to respect prosecutors' independence.

"We need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the DOJ of this nation that has been so badly damaged," Biden said while introducing his pick to be attorney general ahead of taking office. "I want to be clear to those who lead this department who you will serve: You won't work for me. You are not the president's or the vice president's lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me … It's to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation."

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has repeatedly refused to weigh in on any ongoing investigations involving the former president, reiterating that he views the Justice Department as independent from the White House.

Though he has not shied away from criticizing what he called "extreme MAGA Republicans," commenting on this investigation could have different political implications and risk alienating voters Democrats hope to gain in the next election.

By not engaging, President Biden is also avoiding making comments that Republicans could use to reinforce their accusations of a politically biased justice system.

"It's not great politically for Biden to be involved. He'll just sit back and let it burn," said Michael Cohen, a political communications professor at Johns Hopkins University. "That will change if there is a conviction, but for now, it doesn't benefit him at all to weigh in."

President Biden's message may also change when he announces his reelection campaign, expected to launch in the coming months.

"Joe Biden is the president; he's not a candidate. And he's doing what he needs to do as President today. What he may do as candidate may be very different," Rosenberg said. "But I assume that by the time he declares, there may be other things that we can be talking about involving Donald Trump and the many, many other criminal investigations that are happening into his behavior over the last several years."

Former President Ulysses S. Grant, Donald Trump and Vice President Aaron Burr.

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