NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – Top Republicans, including some of the Donald Trump Potential rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination rushed to his defense Saturday after Trump said he was preparing for a possible arrest.
The reaction underscores the political risks facing potential opponents as they seek to convince voters that the time has come to move on from the former president. But they also acknowledge the numerous investigations – Trump’s post on social media about investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney led to public statements of support — remains deeply unpopular among his supporters, who fear alienating his loyal base.
Among those who sided with Trump was House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said a possible indictment would be “a flagrant abuse of power by a radical prosecutor, allowing violent criminals to walk as they seek political revenge” against Trump.
McCarthy, D-Calif., said he would direct the appropriate GOP-led House committees to “immediately investigate whether federal funds are being used to undermine our democracy through election interference with politically motivated harassment.” McCarthy did not endorse Trump’s campaign for the White House, but Trump helped McCarthy win the speakership after a controversial several rounds of voting.
The comments came hours after Trump said on social media that he expected to be arrested next week New York State Attorney Alvin Bragg is considering charges in an investigation into hidden payments to women who allegedly had sex with Trump. Trump’s lawyer and spokesman said Saturday that Trump, who has long denied the allegations, was responding to media reports in the publication and had no independent knowledge of any legal action.
However, Trump said in a post on his Truth Social network that “THE LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY NEXT WEEK.” He then urged his supporters to “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!” remembering the requests he had made before uprising in the US Capitol January 6, 2021
Any potential violence caused by Trump’s comments could change the backlash theory. But on Saturday, several stated and potential Trump rivals were quick to blast the district attorney’s investigation.
“Well, like a lot of Americans, I’m just amazed,” said former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to enter the race in the coming weeks and is stepping up his criticism of Trump.
In an interview with SiriusXM’s Breitbart News, he said the investigation “reeks of the kind of political harassment that we’ve been through with the Russia hoax and the whole impeachment over a phone call. And one thing I do know is that former President Trump can take care of himself.”
Pence deflected when asked Thursday if Trump should recuse himself if he is indicted. “I believe that this is a free country. Everyone can make their own decisions,” he said.
Trump said he will continue his presidential campaign even if he is indicted.
Vivek Ramaswamythe conservative tech investor, who is already a declared candidate, urged Bragg to “change his mind.”
“Indicting Trump would be a national disaster,” Ramaswamy tweeted. “It is un-American for the ruling party to use police power to arrest its political opponents.”
“Let the American people decide who governs,” he added. “This will mark a dark moment in American history and undermine public confidence in our election system itself.”
Representatives for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another potential candidate seen as Trump’s most serious challenger, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives and an early Trump supporter, said the district attorney’s actions would be “un-American.”
“Knowing that they cannot defeat President Trump at the ballot box, the radical left will now follow the example of the socialist dictators and reportedly arrest President Trump, the leading candidate for the US presidency of the Republican Party,” she said in a statement, echoing the words Trump.
Ohio Senator J. D. Vance, who won his 2022 race with a Trump endorsement, said several reporters asked him if the indictment would force him to drop his endorsement of Trump.
“The answer is, hell no. Politically motivated prosecution strengthens case for Trump, he tweeted. “We simply don’t have a real country if justice depends on politics.”
Prosecutors are investigating hush money payments to two women who claimed they had sexual contact with Trump decades ago. The grand jury hears, among other things, witnesses former Trump lawyer Michael Cohenwho says he arranged payments to the women in 2016 in exchange for their silence.
Trump denies the meetings and sees the investigation as a “witch hunt” by Democratic prosecutors seeking to sabotage Trump’s latest presidential campaign. Trump said he believes the indictment will help him in the 2024 race.
Senator Lindsay Graham, RSC, a long-time ally, agreed.
“The attorney general in New York did more to help Donald Trump get elected,” Graham said Saturday at the Vision ’24 conference in North Charleston, South Carolina. “They are doing this because they are afraid of Donald Trump.
Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Keene, New Hampshire, and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island contributed to this report.
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