Congressional Republicans lined up to declare their fealty to Donald Trump on Thursday despite lacking details about his indictment by a New York grand jury, signaling that they would clamor to cast his forthcoming prosecution as politically motivated regardless of the substance.
“When Trump wins, THESE PEOPLE WILL PAY!!” Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) said moments after the news broke that Trump would face an indictment on unspecified charges connected to hush money payments he made to a porn actress in 2016 to silence her claim of an extramarital affair.
Other congressional Republicans expressed varying degrees of rage at the indictment or alleged political motivations behind the case, led by District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said her party should retaliate by impeaching President Joe Biden because “the gloves are off.”
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) warned colleagues in Congress that they need to “think long and hard about their oath of office” and “step up … or get out of the way.” Speaker Kevin McCarthy made no promises of specific action but said the House would “hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election,” he said in a statement.
Though the precise details of the charges against Trump are unclear, the New York-based case centers on allegations that he bought the silence of Stormy Daniels, who sought to sell her story of an earlier affair with Trump in the closing weeks of the 2016 election. Bragg confirmed that he had contacted Trump’s lawyer to “coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office” but that the indictment remained sealed and an arraignment date had not yet been picked.
The hush money case percolated in New York and in the Justice Department for years but eventually went dormant. Bragg appeared to abandon it shortly after becoming district attorney last year but it surged back to life in recent weeks, with a cascade of witnesses — including Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen — returning to the grand jury. That timeline has led Trump to frame the probe as politically motivated, driven by Democratic-led prosecutors in New York City.
Republicans on Capitol Hill were eager to amplify those claims, often in starkly political terms, contending that the charges against Trump would motivate his supporters and boost his prospects for returning to the White House in 2024.
Even Senate Republicans, who have not leapt as readily as their House counterparts to defend Trump in the past, blasted out statements condemning the indictment.
“This is a politically-motivated prosecution by a far-left activist,” Senate GOP Conference Chair John Barrasso of Wyoming said in a statement. “If it was anyone other than President Trump, a case like this would never be brought.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) declared that the indictment “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“Politics should never tip the scales of justice, and Congress has every right to investigate the conduct and decision-making of the Manhattan D.A.’s office,” he added.”
Democrats, on the other hand, made a concerted effort to present a measured response, suggesting that the legal process should play out and the indictment showed no one – not even a former president – was above the law.
“The indictment of a former president is unprecedented. But so are Trump’s alleged offenses,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of Trump’s longtime political nemeses. “If the rule of law is to be applied equally — and it must — it must apply to the powerful as it does to everyone else. Even presidents. Especially presidents. To do otherwise is not democracy.”
Others urged allies not to “celebrate” and emphasized the “somber” nature of the news, particularly amid concerns that a Trump indictment might be accompanied by security risks.
“As this case progress, let us neither celebrate nor destroy,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) issued a quick rejoinder to McCarthy, emphasizing that his heated rebuke of Bragg came despite the complete absence of details about the evidence the district attorney had amassed.
“Dear @SpeakerMcCarthy: You don’t know the charges. You don’t know the evidence presented to the grand jury. You don’t know about other evidence the DA may have,” Lieu wrote. “What you are doing is attempted political interference in an ongoing local criminal prosecution and you need to stop.”