If there were any doubts that the Republican Party is still hovering around Donald Trump, party officials dispelled them on Tuesday as the former president sat in court in Manhattan and officially became a criminal defendant.
From the most senior GOP lawmakers to its most attention-hungry backbenchers, its most ardent MAGA fire-eaters to its most consistent Trump critics, the party has shown remarkable consistency. closing ranks around his once and potentially future presidential standard-bearer.
In tweets, statements and media interviews, every Republican lawmaker who spoke about Trump’s case on Tuesday did so with varying levels of concern and outrage at the Manhattan District Attorney’s decision, Alvin Bragg Jr., to charge Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records. related to alleged silent payments.
The most unifying point for Republicans was to present the indictment as flimsy and politically motivated — and to back a congressional counter-investigation, as Chairman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) did on Tuesday night.
Even Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), the only senator to convict Trump twice in his impeachment trials, argued that Bragg had “stretched himself into bringing criminal felony charges in order to fit in with a political program.
One of the first GOP senators to comment was Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) — who is sometimes accused at home of being insufficiently Trump-friendly — who called it was “a politically motivated prosecution” and supported House GOP efforts to investigate Bragg.
Naturally, Trump’s closest allies have made those same remarks louder, harsher, more often, and more absurdly.
Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), for example, tweeted about the indictment no less than 14 different times on Tuesday.
Far-right representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ), meanwhile, tweeted a photo of him with Trump and urged his supporters to “make the pledge: I AM WITH OUR PRESIDENT, DONALD J. TRUMP.”
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Trump’s former White House doctor, repeatedly tweeted about the indictment in apocalyptic language, accusing President Joe Biden of having his “political opponents” arrested. “. in a graphic alongside Hitler and Stalin.
“Hey FAT ALVIN,” Jackson quipped, “go ahead and celebrate with another jelly beignet, but get ready to answer some serious questions from Congress!”
Granted, there were obvious gaps in Trump’s GOP armor. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for example, has yet to comment on the indictment, even though his House counterpart frequently speaks out.
Across Capitol Hill, there are real signs Trump’s support has waned as lawmakers seem anxious for an alternative in the 2024 race. Indeed, many rank-and-file Republicans have chosen to remain silent since the News of the indictment broke Friday.
But the indictment appeared to force a shift in the internal dynamics around Trump’s 2024 presidential bid, with seismic developments in Manhattan forcing fence guards to defend him or, in some cases, come out and walk. ‘approve.
Citing the criminal case, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) announced its approval of Trump for the presidency on Monday night. Indiana Senate candidate Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) did the same on Friday.
Several key Republicans have explicitly argued that the indictment would significantly boost his bid for the White House in 2024.
Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a Trump endorser, was just one of many members of the House GOP leadership to tweet her support for Trump on Tuesday, though she was typically blustering in her response.
Claiming that Trump “continues to soar in the polls,” Stefanik boasted in a statement that the ex-president “will defeat this latest witch hunt, defeat Joe Biden, and be sworn in as President of the United States of America. in January 2025.”
That optimism extended even to Republicans who did not endorse the former president’s third straight bid for the White House.
“For those who think this will hurt President Trump’s chances of running for the White House in 2024, I have news for you: it won’t. tweeted Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the influential bloc of House conservatives.
Democrats, in general, are struggling to see how the dark cloud of a criminal case could help Trump win a general election rematch with Biden in 2024, even if it could help him win a primary. of the GOP.
The initial Republican response outlined how the party could at least attempt to make its point to a wider audience. Almost every official statement referred to crime levels in New York and argued that Bragg was spending time pursuing Trump while being soft on violent criminals. (Last year, Bragg said his office would not prosecute certain crimes related to the sale of marijuana, evading public transit fares and others, drawing criticism from some law enforcement officials. ‘order.)
Given that Republicans effectively leveraged public concerns about crime to win the 2022 election, especially in New York, it’s no surprise that so many people sought to blame Bragg for a criminal justice system. Two weights, two measures.
But Republicans may prove more inclined to the gravitational pull of an argument that has limited appeal outside the party base: that the country’s justice system is pitted against Trump and, therefore, his supporters, while ‘he should focus on their enemies.
“Hunter Biden is free. Hillary Clinton is free,” tweeted Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), a member of the House GOP leadership. “The left’s weaponization of our criminal justice system for its own benefit is truly un-American. The far left changed all the rules, now we have to respect them.
Even for high-profile figures like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), not quite a staunch Trump ally, the indictment was framed as a Rubicon-level escalation in a nationwide partisan power struggle.
In a serious direct-to-camera video, Rubio argued that Bragg’s decision would “definitely change politics in America forever.”
“After today, every US attorney who wants to make a name for themselves will be allowed to go after someone on the other side,” Rubio warned. “We are going to regret this day for a very, very long time.”