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Gov. Doug Burgum attends Trump trial, calls it ‘election interference’

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Gov. Doug Burgum attends Trump trial, calls it ‘election interference’

May 14, 2024 | 11:38 am ET
By Ashley Murray Michael Achterling
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Gov. Doug Burgum at Trump trial in New York
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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, in the red tie, appears at the trail of former President Donald Trump who is accused of covering up hush money payments linked to an extramarital affair with Stormy Daniels, at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Curtis Means - Pool/Getty Images)

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, on Donald Trump’s shortlist for vice presidential picks, appeared in the Manhattan courtroom Tuesday alongside the former president who is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records in relation to hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election.

Burgum spoke to reporters outside the courthouse during a break in the trial, calling the trial “election interference.”

“It’s tying up the president from being out on the campaign trail,” Burgum said. “And of course, we know from the polls that have come out … President Trump is leading all over the country.”

He said those polls show the American people are with the former president.

“The American people have already acquitted Donald Trump,” Burgum said. “The sooner that this scam trial can be concluded, the sooner the president can get back to getting out and campaigning and talking to the American people about the issues that matter.”

Star witness in Trump trial tells of plot to conceal porn star hush money payments 

Burgum is not the only vice presidential contender to support Trump in a New York criminal court this week. Vivek Ramaswamy, former rival but now longshot contender, attended Tuesday.  U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., showed up to the trial on Monday.

House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., also attended the proceedings Tuesday alongside Republican lawmakers Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., and Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla. 

In an email, Mike Nowatzki, spokesperson for the governor’s office, said Burgum was attending the trial as an “observer in support of the former president.”

Trump spoke to reporters during a break in the trial and said he was proud of his surrogates who attended the proceedings.

“I do have a lot of surrogates and they are speaking very beautifully,” Trump said. “They are highly respected and they think this is the greatest scam ever seen.”

After Burgum’s comments, Donalds made statements to reporters about Loren Merchan, the daughter of presiding judge Judge Juan Merchan. Trump is under a gag order by Judge Merchan that prohibits the former president from making comments about potential witnesses in the trial, staff and family members of the court or counsel and jurors.

GOP politicians rush to Manhattan to line up behind Trump as hush money trial continues

“The only thing that’s being done wrong is by this judge,” Donalds said. “His daughter is making money? Raising money for Democrats? And all the fundraising emails … are about this trial that his daughter is using. He won’t recuse himself? This is a travesty of justice.”

Burgum criticized the judge and witness Michael Cohen during an appearance on CNN Tuesday afternoon. Burgum said Judge Merchan donated money to President Joe Biden and that New York prosecutors supported the president. And, while not citing Merchan’s daughter by name, Burgum said the judge’s family members are “benefiting financially as Democrat operatives.” He also claimed Cohen, who testified Tuesday, repeatedly lied to a grand jury, Congress and in other court cases. 

“The prosecution has got a tough job to try and build their case on someone who is a serial perjurer,” Burgum said. 

When asked whether Trump asked Burgum to go in front of reporters and attack Merchan’s daughter since the North Dakota governor is not under the court’s gag order, Burgum said “no, not whatsoever.”

“I’m here because I care about the future of this country and where it’s going,” he said. “I’m here as a volunteer.”

Burgum then noted the large media presence outside the courthouse and questioned why the media was so focused on the first criminal trial of a former president when everyday Americans are struggling with inflation and focused on “proxy wars” with Russia and Iran.

“Yet the world’s attention is on a paperwork trial that, at its best … this would’ve been a non-material, classification error,” Burgum said. 

New York does not allow recording in the courtroom but provides public transcripts of the proceedings.

Gov. Doug Burgum attends Trump trial, calls it ‘election interference’
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum encourages voters to support Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally in the basement ballroom of The Margate Resort on Jan. 22, 2024, in Laconia, New Hampshire. Burgum ran against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination but later dropped out and endorsed him. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Burgum endorsed Trump for president in January during a campaign rally in Iowa.

“We had a friend and a partner in the White House who understood us and wanted to see our state succeed versus being regulated out of business,” said Burgum, who dropped his Republican presidential bid in December.

In July, Burgum said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would not do business with Trump, stating “you’re judged by the company you keep.”

Burgum’s name has been floated as a potential vice president candidate or for a Cabinet position. 

Burgum chose not to run for a third term as governor in 2024.

This story was updated with Gov. Doug Burgum’s comments from the trial. It was updated again with comments from Donald Trump and Byron Donalds and again from Burgum’s CNN appearance.