The pending arrest of Donald Trump puts Republican senators who want to get away from the former president in an awkward position as he calls for mass protests if Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg places him in custody.
GOP MPs see the local district attorney’s indictment of the former president as crossing the line and setting a bad precedent, but they fear a repeat of the violence that erupted when Trump urged his supporters to protest Congressional approval of the 2020 election on January 2. 6, 2021.
Compounding their discomfort is the nature of allegations that Trump paid $130,000 to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels, as his former aide Michael Cohen testified before Congress in 2019.
Senior members of the Republican leadership of the Senate have remained silent on the prospect of Trump’s arrest and Trump’s calls for mass protests, which Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tried to thwart over the weekend.
Republicans also fear that Trump’s arrest could bolster his support among GOP voters and lead to a victory in next year’s presidential primaries.
“If you want to talk about how to unite the Republicans behind Donald Trump in the primaries, then the only thing that can be done is an unbalanced left-wing prosecution, complete with possibly walking a criminal in front of the cameras, who will eventually be ousted. and end in failure. the biggest in-kind gift to the Donald Trump campaign this entire cycle,” Sen. Ted Cruz (D-Texas) said on his podcast on Monday.
Cruz has yet to make an endorsement in the primaries.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (RSC), Trump’s closest ally in the Senate, said Bragg, the Manhattan prosecutor, “did more to help get Donald Trump elected president than any other person in America today.”
“I think this is a constant, endless effort to destroy Donald Trump and everything around Donald Trump,” he said.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) presented Trump’s pending arrest as part of a broader Democrat effort to use law enforcement as a weapon against their opponents.
“Now they want to arrest Trump, their main political opponent. This is the banana republic party,” he tweeted over the weekend.
But GOP strategists and aides say the complex political dynamics have left Republican lawmakers in a quandary.
“I believe Trump is a despicable man who has done fundamental damage to our party and our country, but what is happening in New York seems like a classic example of prosecutorial abuse,” said former Senator Judd Gregg (RN). .H.), former adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky).
McConnell was out of the Senate for more than a week after suffering a concussion during a fall at an event away from the Capitol.
“You can’t charge a former president for some kind of campaign finance issue seven years ago, unless it’s a really, really serious case, open and closed,” Gregg said.
But Gregg also criticized Trump’s call for mass protests as “inexcusable.”
“It reflects the type of person he is and why we had January 6th, but hopefully people will ignore that,” he said.
McCarthy, who has been criticized for not holding Trump accountable for the Jan. 6 violence, tried Sunday to quell Trump’s calls for mass protests if he is arrested.
“I don’t think people should protest this, no,” he said.
Vin Weber, a GOP strategist and former member of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives, said that Republican lawmakers “should condemn the precedent of arrest and indictment of a former president. Dot, dot.
“If we let the genie out of the bottle, we can expect it to happen again to other people, and suddenly America will no longer be like America. We are like those countries where you would use the judicial system to persecute your political opponents,” he said.
Trump’s biggest challenger for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right), initially remained silent about a possible indictment of the former president.
Finally, on Monday, he broke his silence by offering a half-hearted defense.
“I have seen the rumors going around. I have not yet seen any facts and therefore do not know what will happen,” he said. “But what I do know is that the Manhattan District Attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor, and as such, he, like other Soros-funded prosecutors, is using his office as a weapon to force a political agenda on the public at the expense of the rule of law and public safety. “.
George Soros is a prominent Democratic donor who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the PAC Color of Change that supported Bragg’s election. He is also often the target of the Republican Party and conspiracy theories.
DeSantis also fired a veiled shot at his rival, joking that he “doesn’t know you have to pay a porn star to keep silent about some alleged affair.”
In a sign that statements about Trump are already playing out in real time in the nascent GOP primary presidential race, Donald Trump Jr. called DeSantis’ response “pure weakness.”
“So, DeSantis believes that Democrats using the law to blame President Trump is a “manufactured circus” and not a “real problem.” Pure weakness. Now we know why he was silent all weekend. It is wholly owned by Karl Rove, Paul Ryan and his billionaire sponsors. 100% controlled opposition,” he tweeted.
A Republican Senate aide said GOP senators who aren’t Trump fans would straddle the line like DeSantis, condemning the Manhattan district attorney for delving into an old charge while refraining from defending Trump.
“DeSantis’ statement was pretty creative, it ticked both boxes, admitting the absurdity of paying money to a porn star and all, and emphasizing that this is a Soros-backed DA. This could be the way forward for people,” the aide said.
Weber, a GOP strategist, said Trump’s alleged behavior “should horrify” leading Republicans like DeSantis and Utah Senator Mitt Romney (right), but that’s why they should focus on “the precedent of indicting a former president at first sight.” . bad idea”.
House prices fall year-over-year for first time in a decade Trump lawyer: if he is indicted, ‘it will be total war’
Brian Darling, a GOP strategist and former Senate aide, acknowledged that prominent Republicans don’t want to go too far in defending Trump.
“Now you see it with Ron DeSantis comments, two-faced defense. You will see many weak defenses in the future. I think DeSantis was probably covering for a lot of the Republicans to defend themselves haphazardly,” he said.
“But the bottom line is, I think Republicans understand that voters will look at this as abuse of power and weaponizing the DA’s office,” he added.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.