Republicans Shrug at New Possible Trump Indictment

The impeachments against Donald J. Trump—past and forthcoming—are becoming the background music of the 2024 presidential campaign: always there, setting the mood, but not quite the center of attention.

So, like so much about the Trump presidency itself, the extraordinary has leveled off that Mr. Trump warned Tuesday that he may face a third indictment this year, this time for his involvement in the events leading up to the storming of Trump on March 6 January’s The Capitol elicited a shrug from some sections of his party and a confused reaction from his rivals.

At a Republican congressional fundraising dinner Tuesday in Washington, news of a likely third indictment against Trump went completely unmentioned, one attendee said. The strategists of some opposing campaigns almost ignored the development. And on Capitol Hill, Mr Trump’s allies quickly resumed their now usual defensive positions.

Two and a half years ago, the deadly insurgency that defaced the country’s seat of government threatened to forever damage Mr Trump’s political legacy. His supporters had stormed the Capitol to prevent acknowledgment of his defeat, cheered on by their leader who had urged them to “fight like hell.” Even long-time Republicans broke with him when broken glass littered the Capitol complex.

But today, Mr. Trump is the undisputed front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024. And the looming Jan. 6-related charges against Mr. Trump were instead turned into attacks on his successor by his Republican defenders on Tuesday.

“We have yet another example of Joe Biden’s gun-toting Justice Department targeting his main political opponent, Donald Trump,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, number 4 in the House of Representatives, told reporters on Capitol Hill.

When Mr. Trump and Ms. Stefanik spoke on the phone Tuesday, the former president stayed on the line while they discussed ways to use Republican-led House committees to try to attack the investigation. Mr Trump also spoke to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who accused the Biden administration of trying to “arm the government to take on its No. 1 opponent.”

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Her comments reinforced a role Congressional Republicans played for Mr Trump twice before he was impeached and twice more when he was impeached earlier this year. The first indictment was filed in March by the Manhattan District Attorney in connection with hush money payments to a porn star. The second case occurred in June when he was charged with storing top secret classified information and obstructing efforts to get it back.

Republicans and Mr Trump’s extended reach have set a rhythm for how to respond. Yet during the election campaign, Mr Trump’s main rivals continue to struggle to formulate any response at all.

First up is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s closest rival in the polls. During a stop in South Carolina on Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis said Mr. Trump “should have been more forceful” against the protesters who stormed the Capitol that day.

But after that line was picked up by Trump deputies to attack Mr. DeSantis, his normally energetic DeSantis War Room Twitter account was anything but bellicose, blaming those deputies take the governor out of context.

“I hope he doesn’t get charged,” Mr. DeSantis said of Mr. Trump in an interview later aired on CNN.

The CNN interview should be an important moment for a candidate who previously avoided any meetings that might legitimize the “corporate media” he regularly denounces. Instead, the broadcaster punctuated its own exclusively taped DeSantis interview with live updates from outside a Florida courthouse on the upcoming trials of one Mr. Trump. The sequence seemed to capture the state of the race in which Mr. Trump is dominant.

Justin Clark, who served as Mr Trump’s deputy campaign manager in 2020 and whose firm National Public Affairs conducted primary race polls, said the challenge facing his rivals is the voters themselves. Data from Mr Clark’s firm shows Republicans are launching an attack on Consider Mr Trump “an attack on themselves,” he said.

“That loyalty is not easy to match in an election campaign,” he added. “His opponents see that too and are therefore very cautious. It’s hard to imagine how another Republican could erupt when primary voters are rallying around their recent president and all challengers are holding back their fire.”

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Mr Trump announced on Tuesday that he had received a “target letter” from Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating his role in the lead up to the Jan. 6 violence.

“Almost always means arrest and charges,” Mr. Trump wrote of the target letter on Truth Social.

Mr Smith’s office indicted Mr Trump in federal court back in June, alleging that he possessed vast amounts of national defense materials and obstructed investigations. In the coming weeks, he may face indictment in Georgia in connection with efforts to overturn that state’s 2020 election.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as Mr Trump’s communications director before stepping down and publicly breaking with her former boss in late 2020, said: “The most striking thing for me is that most of Trump’s GOP opponents trail him by double digits in the polls. ” , still will not take this opportunity to denounce his improper actions.”

One reason is that Mr. Trump and the Republican primary voters have so thoroughly rewritten the history of January 6, 2021. Mere mention of the day is no longer an overwhelmingly clear political loser for the former president, at least for a Republican primary. Mr Trump declared the violence a “love fest” two months after the attack and has continued to do so.

In fact, at a rally in Texas earlier this year, Mr. Trump put his hand to his heart and listened to the song “Justice for All,” which featured his voice and that of some January 6 prisoners.

Few prominent elected officials were as directly affected on Jan. 6 as former Vice President Mike Pence. But even he declined to suggest Mr Trump should be prosecuted, saying the matter should be decided at the election.

“I believe history will hold him accountable for his actions that day,” Mr Pence told NewsNation on Tuesday. But of one indictment, he said, “I hope it doesn’t come to that.” I’m not convinced that the president, who is responding to bad advice from a group of lunatic lawyers who went to court in the days leading up to Jan. 6, is not convinced White House came, is actually criminal.”

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There were some exceptions.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who did poorly in the polls, said in a statement that “Donald Trump’s behavior on January 6 should bar him from ever being president again.”

And former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wrote on Twitter that he would like to see the indictment for himself before expressing his opinion, but added that “Mr. Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 proves he cares for our country.” and our constitution don’t matter”.

However, the details set out in the first federal indictment against Mr Trump — allegations that he waved what he described as classified government documents in front of people without security clearance at two of his private clubs — did little to diminish his support. Several elected Republicans instinctively backed him, and his poll ratings stayed high or even rose.

Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist in California who worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential election in 2008, says he believes it will all eventually become too much freight for Mr. Trump to win the nomination.

“There was the issue of eligibility, and as these charges pile up and details come out, I don’t think we know yet if voters will stick with him when there seem to be viable competitive alternatives,” Stutzman said.

Mr Trump’s team has used his previous indictments to collect vast amounts of campaign money. But on Tuesday in Iowa, during a town hall-style interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Mr Trump dismissed the gracious host’s suggestion that he had been able to overcome his recent legal entanglement.

“No,” said Mr. Trump, “it bothers me.”

Mayan King contributed to the reporting.


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