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Biden campaign slams Trump as ‘convicted criminal’ in first ad seizing on former president’s legal woes

By Arlette Saenz and Sam Fossum, CNN

(CNN) — The Biden campaign is rolling out a new ad in battleground states framing the election as a choice between a “convicted criminal” and a president “fighting for your family” in its latest effort to seize on Donald Trump’s conviction in his criminal hush money trial in its appeal to voters.

It marks the first time President Joe Biden’s campaign has used Trump’s legal woes in its television advertising campaigns, setting up a major contrast push as the two prepare to face off in their first debate, which will be hosted by CNN on June 27. The campaign spot, titled “Character Matters,” is part of a $50 million ad buy in June and will run on television and internet-connected TV in battleground states and on national cable, the campaign announced Monday.

The 30-second spot opens with black-and-white images of Trump walking into the Manhattan courthouse where he was recently found guilty of falsifying business records, before pivoting to draw a contrast with what the campaign says Biden’s administration has accomplished.

“In the courtroom we see Donald Trump for who he is. He’s been convicted of 34 felonies, found liable for sexual assault, and he committed financial fraud,” the narrator says. “Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s been working, lowering health care costs and making big corporations pay their fair share.”

“This election is between a convicted criminal who is only out for himself,” the narrator says as the former president’s mug shot splashes across the screen. “And a president who is fighting for your family.”

Trump’s campaign responded to the ad by repeating its claim that the hush money trial amounted to “election interference” and pointed to recent polling that indicates Biden’s message is struggling to break through in key battlegrounds.

“The contrast between President Trump’s strength and success versus Crooked Joe Biden’s weakness, failures, and dishonesty will be made clear on the debate stage next week,” Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for the campaign, said in a statement posted on X.

For months, Biden and his team refrained from using Trump’s legal woes in their arguments against him. But that changed in the days after Trump was found guilty in New York.

The campaign has leaned into using the verdict as further evidence the former president is unfit for office and has branded him a “convicted felon” in statements. Biden first addressed Trump’s conviction one day after the jury’s unanimous verdict, saying in remarks at the White House that it reaffirmed “the American principle that no one is above the law.”

Three days later, the president used the term “convicted felon” to describe his opponent at a Connecticut fundraiser.

“For the first time in American history, a former president is convicted – a convicted felon. He’s now seeking the office of the presidency,” Biden said. “But as disturbing as that is, more demanding, more damaging is the all-out assault Donald Trump is making on the American system of justice.”

At a Biden fundraiser in Los Angeles over the weekend, former President Barack Obama lamented the normalization of “behavior that used to be disqualifying,” referencing Trump’s conviction.

It’s unclear how much of an impact Trump’s conviction will have on the 2024 race. The former president’s campaign said it saw an influx of online donations in the 24 hours after the guilty verdict was announced, bringing in $53 million.

The ad push comes 10 days before Biden and Trump will appear on the debate stage at a CNN studio in Atlanta for the first in-person showdown of the 2024 campaign.

“Trump approaches the first debate as a convicted felon who continues to prove that he will do anything and harm anyone if it means more power and vengeance for Donald Trump,” the Biden campaign’s communications director, Michael Tyler, said in a statement.

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