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Trump’s court conduct gives Democrats a ‘Sleepy Joe’ retort

Former president Donald Trump has long cast President Biden as “Sleepy Joe,” accusing him of being too old and weak to do the job. Now Biden’s campaign sees an opportunity to turn the tables.

The campaign has increasingly put a spotlight on reports that Trump has appeared to doze off during his hush-money trial in New York, which started this week.

“A feeble and tired Donald Trump once again falls asleep in court,” the campaign said Friday on X, responding to a New York Times live blog entry saying Trump “appears to have fallen asleep in court again.”

Later Friday, Biden’s campaign labeled Trump “Sleepy Don” in a news release saying he had a “nightmare week” that included getting “some shut-eye.”

The digs are notable because Biden’s campaign and the White House have otherwise avoided commenting on the trial itself. Trump has argued that the case is an attempt to interfere with the 2024 election, claiming without evidence that Biden has orchestrated it in the run-up to their November rematch.

Trump’s campaign fired back at the Biden campaign Friday, calling the Times report “fake news from a reporter who wasn’t even in the courtroom.”

“Contrast that with Biden falling asleep constantly at meetings, and tripping and busting his ass while falling down numerous times,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

The Times reporter who wrote the blog post, Maggie Haberman, said in an email that she was watching from an overflow room outside the courtroom.

“Unlike the Trump aides sitting rows behind him in the courtroom, I was in the overflow room and, along with other reporters, could see his entire face on a very large monitor through closed-circuit camera,” Haberman said.

The trial is the first of four that Trump faces with the 2024 election looming. In New York, he faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a 2016 hush money payment meant to keep an adult-film actress quiet about an alleged sexual tryst.

Trump is required to attend every day of the trial, which started Monday with jury selection.

It is not entirely clear if Trump has fallen asleep in court. Washington Post reporters have been watching the trial from inside the courtroom — but seated behind Trump — and from the overflow room where there is a video feed. They have seen his eyes close multiple times this week.

On Tuesday, during questioning of the jurors, Trump closed his eyes and his head occasionally dipped down. In another moment, Trump leaned back and his eyes appeared to be closed as his head occasionally tilted.

On Thursday, Trump appeared to be resting his eyes while the judge, Juan Merchan, read extended jury instructions.

When there were first reports that Trump was apparently dozing off in court — on the trial’s Opening Day — the Biden campaign responded playfully, using it to highlight a top issue for Democrats this election cycle.

“Wake Up Donald: After Stormy Abortion Ban Coverage, Trump Poll Memo Attempts to Hush Panic,” read the subject line of a Biden campaign news release.

The news release referred to a Trump campaign memo that downplayed the political potency of the issue of abortion in Arizona after a state Supreme Court upheld a near total abortion ban there last week.

Biden’s campaign told The Washington Post that it remained focused on issues beside Trump’s trial.

“Our campaign and the President are focused on the American people — not Donald Trump’s trials and tribulations,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement. “We’re also not sleeping on the fact that campaigns are won by the candidate who remains focused on fighting for the American people — not distracted by their own grievances or pursuit of revenge and retribution.”

Still, the criticism of Trump comes as part of a sustained effort by the Biden campaign to amplify examples of the former president mixing up people, misstating facts or slipping over his words, as Biden officials fight back against concerns about Biden’s own mental fitness. Even though Biden, 81, is only a few years older than Trump, 77, polls show voters are more concerned about Biden’s age.

At the White House, officials have repeatedly declined to comment on the case and suggested Biden is not paying close attention.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday, the first day of the trial, that she expected Biden to “get an update at some point today” but that he was focused on meetings with foreign leaders that day. Asked about the trial the next day, she said Biden was focused on a three-day tour of Pennsylvania that he was starting that day.

Jury selection in Trump’s trial concluded Friday afternoon, and opening statements are expected Monday.

The trial, Trump said Friday afternoon on social media, “is a Long, Rigged, Endurance Contest.”

Isaac Arnsdorf and Tyler Pager contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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