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Robert De Niro shows up to troll Donald Trump outside hush-money trial

Click to play video: 'Robert De Niro slams Trump as a ‘clown’ outside NYC hush money trial'
Robert De Niro slams Trump as a ‘clown’ outside NYC hush money trial
WATCH: Actor Robert De Niro slammed Donald Trump as "a clown" destroying American democracy on Tuesday, outside the New York City courtroom where the Republican presidential candidate's hush money trial is being held – May 28, 2024

President Joe Biden’s campaign on Tuesday showed up outside former President Donald Trump’s New York City criminal hush money trial with actor Robert De Niro and a pair of former police officers in an effort to refocus the presidential race on the former president’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection.

It was a sharp about-face for Biden’s team, which had largely ignored the trial since it began six weeks ago and is now looking to capitalize on its drama-filled closing moments, sending the Goodfellas actor and the first responders who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Biden’s campaign had been wary about feeding into Trump’s argument that his criminal trials were the result of politically motivated prosecutions, but ultimately it decided to engage because its message about the stakes of the election was struggling to break through the intense focus on the trial.

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Actor Robert De Niro, center, arrives for a news conference outside Manhattan criminal court in New York, US, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Former US President Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged scheme to silence claims of extramarital sexual encounters during his 2016 presidential campaign. Yuki Iwamura / Bloomberg via Getty Images

A top Biden adviser said they weren’t there to talk about the trial — and De Niro and the officers didn’t reference the sordid criminal case directly — rather to exploit the large media focus on the legal proceedings. But Trump advisers argued in a dueling press conference that the Biden team’s presence validated the Republican former president’s claims that his prosecutions are being driven by politics.

“We’re not here today because of what’s going on over there,” Biden campaign communication director Michael Tyler told reporters, gesturing toward the courthouse. “We’re here today because you all are here.”

Click to play video: 'Closing arguments delivered in Trump’s historic hush money trial'
Closing arguments delivered in Trump’s historic hush money trial

The back-to-back press conferences were a side show to the main event playing out inside the courthouse, where closing arguments were under way in the only Trump trial likely to surface before the November election. There are two others directly related to the Republican’s efforts to undo his 2020 loss to Biden, a Democrat: A federal case in Washington is related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and a state case in Georgia accuses him of election interference. He has pleaded not guilty in those cases.

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The Biden campaign last week released a new ad that was narrated by De Niro sharply criticizing Trump’s presidency and plans if he’s reelected.

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“I don’t mean to scare you. No, wait, maybe I do mean to scare you,” De Niro told reporters. “If Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted.”

The actor cast himself as the true New Yorker and mocked Trump’s history of sometimes-unsuccessful business ventures and self-promotion, saying Trump was looking to “destroy” the city.

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“We New Yorkers used to tolerate him when he was just another crappy real estate hustler masquerading as a big shot,” De Niro said. “I love this city. I don’t want to destroy it. Donald Trump wants to destroy not only the city but the country, and, eventually, he could destroy the world.”

Former Washington, D.C., police officer Michael Fanone and former Capitol police officer Harry Dunn spoke of their personal experiences on Jan. 6, with Fanone describing his injuries suffered at the hands of the mob of Trump supporters seeking to halt Congress’ certification of Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.

“I came here today to remind Americans of what Donald Trump is capable of and the violence that he unleashed on all of Americans on Jan. 6, 2021,” Fanone said.

The two former officers were also witnesses during a congressional investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. Hundreds of law enforcement officers were beaten and bloodied in the attack by Trump supporters, who descended after a rally and smashed into the Capitol while Trump remained silent for hours.

“Americans need to wake up. This is not a drill,” said Harry Dunn, a former Capitol police officer who ran unsuccessfully for office in Maryland.

Actor Robert De Niro, left, points to a supporter of former US President Donald Trump during a news conference outside Manhattan criminal court in New York, US, on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Former US President Donald Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged scheme to silence claims of extramarital sexual encounters during his 2016 presidential campaign. Yuki Iwamura / Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We can’t count on these institutions to stop Donald Trump,” he added. “It’s going to take us Americans at the ballot box to defeat him once and for all.”

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Trump’s campaign staffers held their own news conference at the same spot outside the courthouse to respond to De Niro, the Jan. 6 officers and the Biden campaign.

Trump’s senior campaign adviser, Jason Miller, called De Niro — who won Oscars for his roles in The Godfather: Part II and Raging Bull — “a washed-up actor” and said the Biden news conference proved Trump’s arguments that the trial, like the others the former president is facing, was motivated by politics.

“After months of saying politics had nothing to do with this trial, they showed up and made a campaign event out of a lower Manhattan trial day for President Trump,” Miller said.

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Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s press secretary, called the Biden campaign “desperate and failing” and “pathetic” and said its event outside the trial was “a full-blown concession that this trial is a witch hunt that comes from the top.”

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