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How Republicans Are Reacting to the Indictment of Former President Donald Trump

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Updated: | Originally published:

Donald Trump made history on Thursday, becoming the first former U.S. president to be criminally charged, after a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict him in a case related to paying hush money to former adult movie star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. The news comes as Trump is in the midst of his third campaign for President. In a statement, he called the indictment “political persecution and election interference at the highest level.”

Many of the former President’s fellow Republicans have quickly come to his defense, expressing varying levels of dismay at the indictment, with some even vowing to take official countermeasures however they can.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is believed to be Trump’s main rival for the GOP presidential nomination, lambasted the indictment. “The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct,” DeSantis tweeted, referring to Democratic mega-donor George Soros and Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney overseeing the case. “Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.”

DeSantis added that “Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances.” The Constitution and federal law require states to comply with other state’s extradition requests, though one of Trump’s attorneys told TIME that the former President is expected to turn himself in to be arraigned in New York on Tuesday.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise called the indictment on Thursday night a “sham,” and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also backed Trump, tweeting that “Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election.” McCarthy added that “the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”

A number of Republican members of Congress responded similarly on Twitter:

“This is an attack on every American,” tweeted Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. “Every single Member of Congress needs to think long and hard about their oath of office. Your next moves will show the world exactly who you are.”

It’s not clear, however, what Congress can do. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia called once again for President Joe Biden’s impeachment, tweeting that “the gloves are off.”

Some Republicans have used the indictment to raise money. “The Deep State thinks this will destroy our movement and keep you quiet,” the National Republican Congressional Committee reportedly sent in a fundraising email that implored recipients to “prove them wrong.”

“After YEARS of sham impeachment attempts, the radical Left is still refusing to give up on their liberally biased vendetta,” reads a fundraising email from Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. “Stand with conservatives NOW.”

Speaking to Fox News, Hawley said Congress must call on Attorney General Merrick Garland to question if the Biden administration or “dark money” were involved in the indictment.

Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence, who just earlier this month said at a political dinner that “history will hold Donald Trump accountable” for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, told CNN on Thursday night that the indictment of a former U.S. President “on a campaign finance issue is an outrage.”

“How does this end?” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Fox News on Thursday. “Trump wins in court, and he wins the election. That’s how this ends.”

House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York said in a statement: “Tens of millions of patriotic Americans have never been so energized to exercise their constitutional rights to peacefully organize and VOTE at the ballot box to save our great republic by electing President Donald J. Trump in 2024.”

“There is no coming back from this moment,” said Fox News host Tucker Carlson, adding later that it’s “probably not the best time to give up your AR-15s.”

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former lawyer, tweeted after the news of the indictment that it’s a “sad day for America.”

Adam Kinzinger, a former Republican representative from Illinois, expressed a similar sentiment, posting on Twitter that “today is a somber day for our nation.” But Kinzinger, who was one of only 10 Republicans to back Trump’s impeachment in 2021, is among the few members of his party who aren’t outraged by the former President’s indictment. “Donald Trump committed many crimes, but this indictment should be a reminder that in America, NO ONE is above the law.”

Don Bacon, a moderate Republican congressman from Nebraska, was more reserved in his reaction to the indictment than some of his colleagues. Bacon told Axios that he trusts the legal system: “There’s checks and balances with a jury, judges and appeals. President Trump will be able to make his defense and we’ll all see if this is a partisan prosecution or not.”

Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas and a potential Republican primary contender against Trump, previously suggested that the former President should drop out of the 2024 race if charged. After the indictment, he said in a statement that “it is essential that the decision on America’s next President be made at the ballot box and not in the court system. Donald Trump should not be the next President, but that should be decided by the voters.”

Trump has survived years of legal trouble before. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and a key witness to the Manhattan prosecutors, told CNN that this indictment was “a long time coming.”

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