Republicans have closed ranks around former President Donald Trump after a Georgia grand jury indicted him and 18 others over their alleged scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election, sticking by the likely GOP candidate through his fourth indictment and baselessly condemning the charges as a politically motivated witch hunt.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) slammed the indictment as a “desperate sham” and accused Georgia officials of “following Biden’s lead” in weaponizing the government against Trump.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) blasted the indictment as a “partisan witch hunt” against Trump shortly after its release, describing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis as a “rogue Far Left radical” engaging in “blatant election interference.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who led efforts to reject presidential electors from certain states, told Fox he was “pissed” at news of Trump’s looming indictment—like many commentators, Cruz spoke before any details of the indictment had been released—and accused President Joe Biden and Democrats of “weaponizing the justice system because they are afraid of the voters.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also dismissed the charges as “unfair” and the product of liberals “trying to take Donald Trump down,” stressing that voters, not prosecutors, should be who decides who the next president will be.
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a vocal supporter of Trump who is climbing the ranks of the GOP, called the indictment the “garbage” product of “pearl clutching” Democrats on a “witch hunt” and suggested the charges are merely a fundraising ploy to bring cash to Willis’ campaign.
Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who has eagerly endorsed Trump for president, claimed the latest charges against Trump are a “radical” leftist effort to “distract from the Biden family corruption,” referring to an ongoing investigation into whether Hunter Biden, the president’s son, violated tax and gun laws.
Trump was charged in connection with efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in an indictment filed by Georgia prosecutors on Monday. The former president, who was charged with 13 felony counts, was one of 19 defendants named in the indictment, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, lawyer Sidney Powell, legal scholar John Eastman and former justice department official Jeffrey Clark. Trump, alongside fellow defendants Giuliani and Trevian Kutti, a former publicist for rapper Kanye West, has roundly dismissed the allegations as a political “witch hunt” designed to interfere with his presidential campaign. The rhetoric of victimhood and political persecution, broadly echoed by many Republicans supporting Trump, has become a familiar and predictable response to the former president’s legal woes and they largely are in line with defenses offered for the previous three indictments Trump has faced. It is worth stressing that evidence of political persecution or a witch hunt to scupper Trump’s presidential bid has not been offered by those leveling such charges—similar to the dearth of evidence for election meddling pedaled by Trump and his allies—which is illustrated by the fact that many forceful condemnations of the Georgia charges were voiced before details of the indictment were actually released.
What To Watch For
Trump is leading a large contingent of Republican hopefuls vying to be the party’s presidential candidate for the 2024 election. Eyes are increasingly on his opponents to see how they might capitalize on the former president’s mounting legal woes to boost their own standing or whether, potentially fearing retribution from loyal voters or a notoriously vindictive candidate who commands the party and could very well take the White House again, they will rally around him. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s closest but still distant rival, has not spoken on the Georgia indictment but has previously supported the former president and cried foul over the investigations against him. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, another GOP hopeful, said the Georgia charges are “another disastrous Trump indictment” and went as far as offering to help the former president’s legal team defend him. “Prosecutors should not be deciding U.S. presidential elections,” Ramaswamy wrote on X. Asa Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas and another GOP candidate, struck a different tone and said Trump “has disqualified himself from ever holding our nation’s highest office again.” Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president who is now running against him and a witness in one of the cases against him, has not yet commented on the indictment.
What We Don’t Know
The criminal indictment of a former president is uncharted territory. Criminal charges or convictions do not prevent someone from running a presidential campaign or holding office. Trump has repeatedly vowed to continue his campaign for president, from prison if necessary, which some of his rivals suggest is driven more by a desire to stay out of jail than serve the country. The significant delays Trump and his legal team are seeking in the cases against him and stated desire to put things off until after the election highlight the legal unknowns ahead. A president could potentially pardon themselves or command the justice department to drop a particular case against them, which both raise novel questions over the scope of presidential power. As Trump could not pardon himself from state charges in Georgia—that power rests with a Board of Pardons and Paroles, which need at least five years of a sentence to be completed before applying for a pardon—there is also the prospect of a president ruling from jail. There are also several legal efforts that could theoretically bar Trump from taking office, though these are also untested.
Trump And Giuliani Blast Election Meddling Charges (Forbes)
Trump Indicted By Fulton County Grand Jury In Georgia Election Interference Case (Forbes)
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