To Republicans across the US, the charges unveiled in a New York courtroom against Donald Trump were not just the start of the latest legal battle in the life of a man who has known no shortage of them, but an attack on democracy itself.
“Today is the day of the real insurrection,” tweeted Mark Levin, the conservative radio host whom Trump reportedly dined with after the indictment was announced last week.
“The Democrat party is trying to imprison the possible if not probable Republican opponent to the current Democrat president,” he added, using “Democrat” instead of “Democratic”, a familiar rightwing tactic.
“This is unprecedented in our country. And the Democrat party has finally succeeded in dragging the nation into tyranny.”
The far-right Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene maintained her reputation for attention-seeking with a chaotic appearance outside the Manhattan courthouse where the charges were read. She also gave an interview in which she likened Trump to some of history’s greatest figures.
“Trump is joining some of the most incredible people in history being arrested today,” she told the conservative Right Side Broadcasting Network.
“Nelson Mandela was arrested, served time in prison. Jesus! Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government.
“I’ll always support him. He’s done nothing wrong.”
Josh Hawley, the Republican senator from Missouri perhaps best known for raising his fist in support of the protesters who would storm the Capitol and send him fleeing on January 6, tweeted: “This case against Trump has nothing to do with the law. It’s an assault on the rule of law. It has everything to do with power, and the Democrats’ determination to keep it at any cost.”
Such comments represented the latest spasms in the episode that has gripped the GOP since last Thursday, when Trump’s indictment by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, was announced.
On Monday, the former president flew from Florida to his hometown for the Tuesday afternoon hearing, where he learned he would face 34 felony charges of falsifying business records relating to hush money payments ahead of the 2016 election that put him in the White House.
It was the first time in US history such charges had been brought against a president, in or out of office. But Trump is also a candidate, having announced in November another run for the presidency. He is currently polling ahead of all potential opponents.
Beyond raising a fist as he left Trump Tower for the courthouse, Trump made no attempt to communicate with hundreds of reporters that followed his every move in New York. Instead, he relied on Truth Social, the platform he created and has used since he was booted off Twitter following January 6.
After a weekend of posts attacking Bragg and Juan Merchan, the judge in the case, Trump struck a note of amazement just before he arrived at court.
“Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America. MAGA!”
In Washington, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House speaker, made clear the party would have Trump’s back. The chairs of three committees in the Republican-held chamber have threatened to subpoena Bragg unless he sits for an interview and hands over documents, a request the prosecutor has resisted, saying it would compromise his investigation.
“Alvin Bragg is attempting to interfere in our democratic process by invoking federal law to bring politicized charges against President Trump, admittedly using federal funds, while at the same time arguing that the peoples’ representatives in Congress lack jurisdiction to investigate this farce,” McCarthy said.
“Not so. Bragg’s weaponization of the federal justice process will be held accountable by Congress.”
But with the exception of Greene and George Santos, a House Republican from New York well known for his many lies, most GOP elected officials stayed away from Manhattan, instead lobbing attacks from afar.
“Hey FAT ALVIN, go ahead and celebrate with another jelly donut, but get ready to answer some serious questions from Congress!” tweeted Ronny Jackson, who was White House physician during Trump’s presidency and now sits in the House from Texas.
Not all Republicans are in love with Trump. But Mitt Romney, the senator and one-time presidential nominee who is a foe of the former president, didn’t think much of the Manhattan case.
“I believe President Trump’s character and conduct make him unfit for office. Even so, I believe the New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fit a political agenda,” Romney said.
“No one is above the law, not even former presidents, but everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law. The prosecutor’s overreach sets a dangerous precedent for criminalizing political opponents and damages the public’s faith in our justice system.”
Joe Biden continued to refuse to comment on the Trump charges, instead holding an event with his science and technology advisors and making phone calls to Emmanuel Macron of France and King Charles III.
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