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Republicans rush to defend Trump ahead of possible indictment

GOP lawmakers are circling the wagons around Donald Trump, who said he expects to be indicted over hush money payments he made to Stormy Daniels.

By Emily Singer - March 21, 2023
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for a trip to visit Bioprocess Innovation Center at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in Morrisville, N.C., Monday, July 27, 2020, in Washington. President Trump’s lawyers filed fresh arguments Monday to try to block or severely limit a criminal subpoena for his tax records, calling it harassment of the president. Lawyers filed a rewritten lawsuit in Manhattan federal court to challenge the subpoena by Manhattan's state prosecutor on grounds they believe conform with how the U.S. Supreme Court said the subpoena can be contested. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican elected officials are coming out in force to defend former President Donald Trump, who said on Saturday he expects to be indicted on Tuesday by a Manhattan grand jury over hush money paid to adult entertainer Stormy Daniels in 2016 after they allegedly had an affair.

In an all-caps Truth Social Post, Trump called for his supporters to “Protest” and “take our nation back!” if he is indicted over the $130,000 in payments made to Daniels during his first presidential campaign. Trump also accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — whose office convened the grand jury — of being “funded by George Soros.” Republicans often invoke Soros, a Jewish philanthropist who supports progressive causes, as a political bogeyman. Some have criticized the move as an antisemitic dog whistle.

The Republican elected officials defending Trump against the possible indictment — who run the gamut from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the highest-ranking Republican elected official in the country, to rumored presidential contender Ron DeSantis, to backbenchers on Capitol Hill — parroted Trump’s claims. They claimed an indictment of Trump would be “political retribution” and a “weaponization of government,” and criticized Bragg for being supported by Soros.

“Here we go again — an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump,” McCarthy tweeted on Saturday. “I’m directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”

“If they can come for Trump, they will come for you,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) tweeted. “This type of stuff only occurs in third world authoritarian nations.”

“Alvin Bragg is bought and paid for by George Soros and has repeatedly showed his hatred for President Trump based on purely political motives,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) tweeted. “It’s time for Congress to fully investigate and subpoena to see if taxpayer funds are being used to push this persecution.”

None of the members defending Trump, however, claimed he was innocent. In fact, DeSantis took a dig at Trump, while still defending him against the possible indictment.

“Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair — I just, I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis said Monday at an official appearance in Florida, but added that Bragg is “pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.”

Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, went to prison in 2018 after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations that stemmed from the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels. In Cohen’s federal indictment, Trump was referred to as “Individual 1.”

“I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with ‘Individual 1,’” Cohen said in sworn congressional testimony in 2019. “And for the record: ‘Individual 1’ is Donald J. Trump.”

Democrats, for their part, slammed Trump’s rhetoric, saying it is reminiscent of the language he used ahead of the violent and deadly insurrection on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021.

“We’ve all seen what happens when Trump calls on his followers to take to the streets. I experienced it firsthand on January 6th when he incited an insurrection… Now he’s trying to do it again,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) tweeted. “Trump is, and will always be, a threat to our democracy and the rule of law.”

While McCarthy defended Trump against indictment, he said the former president’s supporters should not protest.

“I don’t think people should protest this, no,” McCarthy said at a Republican retreat, according to Politico. “We want calmness out there.”

Ultimately, it’s unclear whether Trump will actually be indicted on Tuesday, as he claimed. But NBC News reported that law enforcement agencies are preparing for a possible Trump indictment at Manhattan Criminal Court.

It could mark the first time in American history that a former president is indicted.

Trump also faces other criminal inquiries in which he could be indicted — one in Georgia over Trump’s alleged attempts to get the state to overturn its election results, and one federal probe being conducted by special counsel looking into Trump’s handling of classified documents and his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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