In Pennsylvania, Biden has a field day razzing Trump on everything but his trial

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As he kicked off a series of events in the crucial battleground state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, President Joe Biden freely ripped into his nemesis.

From his hometown, Scranton, Biden chided Donald Trump about his past tax plan for giving tax breaks to billionaires and his comments about Social Security. He joked about Trump’s personal financial predicament. He accused Trump of ballooning the federal debt, razzed him for suggesting that injecting bleach could battle Covid-19 and called him Donald Herbert Hoover Trump.”

What Biden didn’t do is touch the lowest-hanging fruit of all — the fact that at the same time, Trump was sitting in a New York City courtroom, the first president or former president in history to stand criminal trial.

As eventful as the trial commencement has been and as salacious as the details of Trump’s case are — involving paying off a porn star to evade political reprisal — Biden didn’t budge from his longtime practice of steering clear of any specific talk about Trump’s legal predicaments. Though he has nibbled around the edges from time to time, Biden doesn’t delve into the indictments Trump faces even, it seems, when a criminal trial is actually underway.

At the same time, Biden’s campaign was having a field day with memes coming out of the trial, ribbing Trump for possibly having nodded off in court. It also put out a news release this week titled: “After Stormy Abortion Ban Coverage, Trump Poll Memo Attempts to Hush Panic.”

It tried to capture the onslaught of rough media Trump faced after last week’s Arizona Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for a near-total ban on abortion in the state, while playing off of porn star Stormy Daniels and “hush money,” the oft-repeated shorthand for the charges he faces.

The campaign seemed to relish poking fun at Trump, calling him “Sleepy Don,” turning the tables on his onetime nickname for Biden, “Sleepy Joe.” But beyond that, the campaign, like Biden, evaded actual commentary on the charges themselves. The White House did the same. Asked whether Biden was being briefed or was watching Trump’s courtroom happenings, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shifted and laid out Biden’s itinerary in Pennsylvania.

“The president is going to Pennsylvania today, and he’s going to do a three-stop tour,” she said before the event. “He’s going to focus on how he’s continuing to help the American people.”

There is an inherent danger for Biden in getting too close to the criticism of Trump’s indictments. Trump has repeatedly told his supporters that the array of court charges he faces is akin to election interference and accused Biden of persecuting him. Celebrating criminal charges against Trump could play into that narrative.

A Biden campaign official said the recent references to Daniels were a creative way to get out a broader message about abortion. As for picking at Trump for falling asleep, the official said that’s consistent with the campaign’s highlighting Trump’s gaffes and that, in this case, it was too good to pass up.

“It’s smart of the president to continue doing what he’s doing, which is talk about his positive vision for the American people,” said Brandon Weathersby, a spokesman for American Bridge 21st Century, the key opposition research group for Biden.

His group, in the meantime, is rapidly responding to the trial, highlighting “chaos” surrounding Trump.

“With Donald Trump being in court just the last few days, we’ve seen a lot of chaos. He’s intimidating jurors. He’s getting reprimanded by the judge. He’s going on rants on social media," Weathersby said, pointing to the split screen with Biden, who was out campaigning and laying out his platform. “Right now he’s doing the job. He looks like a president.”

On Tuesday, against a backdrop that read “Tax Fairness for All Americans” Biden, 24 hours after Tax Day, laid out a tax plan he said would benefit the middle class and working-class people. It would expand the child tax credit, he said, and add a minimum tax for billionaires. At the same time, he vowed he wouldn’t raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year.

But he was far from sparing about Trump, seeming to take joy in a string of snarky comments.

He bashed Trump, saying he cut taxes only for the wealthy.

“I have to say if Trump’s stock in Truth Social, his company, drops any lower, he might do better under my tax plan than his,” Biden joked to the Scranton crowd.

He had the supporters clapping and laughing at another point when he told a story about being confronted by someone who complained about not feeling the benefits of the economy. He was, however, setting up a joke at Trump’s expense.

“Just the other day a defeated-looking guy came up to me and asked if I could help. He was drowning in debt,” Biden said. Then he delivered the punchline: “I said, ‘I’m sorry, Donald, but I can’t help you.’”

It was a line Biden had used in private events but hadn't said publicly before.

Biden is to spend the next two days traversing Pennsylvania in a series of events, including in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

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