Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a political rally while campaigning for the GOP nomination in the 2024 election at Erie Insurance Arena on July 29, 2023 in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress and Republicans competing against Donald Trump in the presidential primary quickly reacted Tuesday to the latest indictment against the former president, falling largely along party lines.
This one, by a federal grand jury, stems from Trump’s alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election after Election Day and leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters marched from a rally he held near the White House to attack the U.S. Capitol building.
Former Vice President Mike Pence of Indiana, who is running in the Republican presidential primary, said Trump’s ongoing status as a candidate isn’t good for the party or the country.
“Today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States,” Pence wrote in a statement.
Pence said he would say more about the Justice Department’s case as it moves forward, though he added that Trump “is entitled to the presumption of innocence.”
“Our country is more important than one man,” Pence wrote. “Our constitution is more important than any one man’s career.”
The 45-page indictment against Trump released Tuesday details Pence’s refusal to accept slates of fake electors from seven states and his rejection of the false premise from Trump and others that Pence could simply not recognize the real electors.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Republican competing for the presidential nomination, wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that if elected president he would “end the weaponization of government, replace the FBI Director, and ensure a single standard of justice for all Americans.”
“While I’ve seen reports, I have not read the indictment,” DeSantis wrote. “I do, though, believe we need to enact reforms so that Americans have the right to remove cases from Washington, DC to their home districts.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, wrote on X that the third indictment against Trump seemed timed to distract from House investigations into Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son.
“Everyone in America could see what was going to come next: DOJ’s attempt to distract from the news and attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, President Trump,” McCarthy wrote.
“House Republicans will continue to uncover the truth about Biden Inc. and the two-tiered system of justice,” McCarthy added.
‘Insidious Big Lie’
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both New York Democrats, said in a joint statement that the attack on Jan. 6, 2021 was “personally orchestrated by Donald Trump and fueled by his insidious Big Lie in an attempt to undermine the 2020 election.”
“This indictment is the most serious and most consequential thus far and will stand as a stark reminder to generations of Americans that no one, including a president of the United States, is above the law,” Schumer and Jeffries said. “The legal process must continue to move forward without any outside interference.”
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski encouraged everyone to read the full indictment “to understand the very serious allegations being made in this case.”
“In early 2021, I voted to impeach former President Trump based on clear evidence that he attempted to overturn the 2020 election after losing it,” Murkowski wrote on X. “Additional evidence presented since then, including by the January 6 Commission, has only reinforced that the former President played a key role in instigating the riots, resulting in physical violence and desecration of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
“Today, the former President has been indicted on four criminal counts. Like all Americans, he is innocent until proven guilty and will have his day in court,” Murkowski added.
House Republican Leader Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, wrote on X that the indictment was political.
“Let’s be clear about what’s happening: Biden’s DOJ is cutting sweetheart deals for Hunter to cover for the Biden Family’s influence peddling schemes while at the same time trying to persecute his leading political opponent,” Scalise wrote. “It’s an outrageous abuse of power.”
Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, who chaired the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, said on X that the charges in the indictment “are consistent with those the Select Committee referred to the Special Counsel last year.”
Thompson added that “successful prosecutions will not only bring accountability but also help prevent something like January 6th from ever happening again.”
“January 6th was a test of American democracy, but the fair trials of those responsible will further demonstrate this Nation’s commitment to the rule of law and hold accountable those who attempted to undermine it,” Thompson wrote.
‘The Swamp fights back’
Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said on X that Trump didn’t do anything wrong.
“When you drain The Swamp, The Swamp fights back,” Jordan wrote. “President Trump did nothing wrong!”
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said the four charges in the 45-page indictment are “very serious, and they must play out through the legal process, peacefully and without any outside interference.”
“Like every criminal defendant, the former President is innocent until proven guilty,” Pelosi said. “Our Founders made clear that, in the United States of America, no one is above the law — not even the former President of the United States.”
Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner said on X that “Jan. 6 will forever mark a day where democracy was brought to the brink as public servants barricaded behind locked doors, law enforcement officers suffered lasting harm, and Americans watched as thugs attempted to bring an entire branch of government to its knees.”
“As with his other indictments, Donald Trump will have the opportunity to speak to these accusations in court,” Warner wrote. “I hope to see my colleagues and fellow Americans respect law and order and allow these legal proceedings to run their course without violence or interference.”
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee, wrote on X ahead of the official announcement, that “news of another indictment against President Trump is no shock ahead of 2024.”
“The Left knows they can’t beat Trump amid Biden’s failures, so they’re trying to take him out with criminal charges,” Blackburn said. “Biden’s abusing two tiers of justice to target his greatest political opponent.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, criticized special counsel Jack Smith, writing on X that Smith is “a terrible attorney with a lot of failures in his career.”
“Now, he’s abusing his power, the power of the special counsel, and the power of the Department of Injustice,” she wrote.
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, of Minnesota, wrote on X that the attack on the Capitol was “an unprecedented assault on our American democracy.”
Inside the Capitol that day, U.S. lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College votes for Biden, but that process was quickly put on hold as the rioters broke through police barricades, assaulted federal law enforcement officers and entered the building.
It took hours for police and the National Guard to get the rioters out of the building, allowing members of Congress to return to the Capitol and certify the Electoral College vote for Biden.
“It is important that in our society, the legal system holds people accountable for crimes committed,” McCollum said. “That applies to a twice-impeached, now thrice-indicted ex-president. No one is above the law.”
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