Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina appearing to be on the verge of tears during a television appearance. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vowing he would not assist with any extradition request to his state. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia pledging to travel to New York on Tuesday in protest.
After the news broke Thursday that Donald Trump had been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury in connection with an alleged hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the final days of his 2016 presidential campaign, Republicans erupted in outrage over the unprecedented development and rallied around the former president.
Flocking to social media and conservative news outlets, elected officials and party leaders condemned the charges as politically motivated and urged support for Trump, calling the prosecution a bleak day in American history.
“It’s a tragic day for our country because today is a significant turning point in our nation’s history. Today marks a moment in the death of the rule of law. This indictment is utter garbage. It is baseless. It is frivolous,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Ben Ferguson on “The Mark Levin Show” Thursday.
“The Democrat Party’s hatred for Donald Trump knows no bounds,” he tweeted. “This is completely unprecedented and is a catastrophic escalation in the weaponization of the justice system.”
Today marks a turning point in our country.— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) March 31, 2023
The indictment of Trump is a moment in the death of the rule of law.
Our Founders are weeping - law is supposed to be fair, regardless of political party.
It is not meant to be used as a weapon to attack your political enemies. pic.twitter.com/4mcv5H9lMo
Trump’s indictment by a grand jury followed a lengthy investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office into payments made to Daniels, who has alleged she had an affair with the former president. While the charges against Trump have not been unsealed, Republicans accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of conducting a “witch hunt” against Trump.
Speak of the House Kevin McCarthy claimed Bragg had irreparably damaged the country “in an attempt to interfere in our presidential election” and had “weaponized our sacred system of justice.”
“The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account,” McCarthy said.
Even Republicans who have emerged as potential rivals to Trump for the presidency — namely former vice president Mike Pence and DeSantis, rose up in his defense against the indictment.
Despite reports of a feud between him and Trump in recent months, DeSantis said the legal system was being used against Trump to “advance a political agenda” and condemned the indictment as “un-American.”
“Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,” he tweeted, referring to George Soros, a billionaire Democratic donor.
Although Pence told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during a scheduled appearance Thursday that “no one is above the law, including former presidents,” he called the charges against Trump an “unprecedented indictment” and “an outrage.”
“This is an issue about campaign finances, and it’s tenuous at best,” Pence said. “This is a bad decision by a political prosecutor and I think the American people are going to see right through it.”
Mike Pence: "No one is above the law, including former presidents." pic.twitter.com/16R57rWhOv— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) March 31, 2023
Many of those who rushed to Trump’s defense are members of the far-right faction of the Republican Party, including Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who tweeted a one-word statement: “Outrageous.”
Greene, who has often come under fire for vitriolic remarks and has emerged as a vocal ally of Trump, said she would be traveling to New York Tuesday. Court officials confirmed Friday that Trump will be arraigned at a Manhattan courthouse Tuesday afternoon.
The Georgia Republican claimed Democrats “want civil war” and “know Trump did not break the law.”
“We MUST protest the unconstitutional WITCH HUNT!” she tweeted. “[Democrats] want to push us into reacting so they can use their weaponized government to lock us all up.”
Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado also described the indictment as “another political witch hunt.” Posting a photo of herself smiling beside Trump, she said she would continue to support him and urged her backers to do the same, calling on people to “get angry and start fighting.”
“This country isn’t going to be taken back if we just give up,” she tweeted.
With a criminal indictment not disqualifying Trump from running for president for a third time, several Republicans in Congress reaffirmed their support for his campaign.
As his eyes brimmed with tears and the audience heckled him in the background, Graham called on people to support Trump’s legal fight and said the case against the former president would “destroy America.”
“We’re going to fight back at the ballot box. We’re not going to give in,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “How does this end, Sean? Trump wins in court and he wins the election. That’s how this ends.”
On Twitter, Graham said that to “avoid prosecution” Trump “should smash some windows, rob a few shops and punch a cop” on his way to the district attorney’s office in New York.
Lindsey Graham appears to be on the verge of crying pic.twitter.com/Ihxt5CYUX4— Acyn (@Acyn) March 31, 2023
During an appearance Thursday on Fox News, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz made a slew of conspiratorial claims to host Laura Ingraham about the indictment, alleging interference in the upcoming presidential election and the involvement of the Biden administration in the charges.
Gaetz said on Twitter he spoke with Trump and the former president is “resolute and focused” but is also “concerned about what this politically motivated indictment will do to America’s brand around the world.”
“We will wake up in a very different America tomorrow because we can no longer have moral authority against the dictators and despots who find it easier to jail their political rivals than to compete against them in free and fair elections,” he tweeted.
Hawley, the first senator to object to Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and who received widespread criticism for his actions during the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, said Republicans must “defend democracy” in the wake of Trump’s indictment while implying the Department of Justice had aided in the prosecution.
“This is burning down the rule of law. They will regret doing this,” Hawley said while speaking with Jesse Waters on Fox News Thursday.
Hawley: This is burning down the rule of law. They will regret doing this because I think the American people won’t stand for it pic.twitter.com/hMsGLVGFZm— Acyn (@Acyn) March 30, 2023
See more statements from Republicans below:
This is unprecedented election interference from corrupt Socialist District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The radical Far Left will stop at nothing to persecute Joe Biden’s chief political opponent President Trump ahead of the election.— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) March 30, 2023
The @HouseGOP will hold Alvin Bragg accountable.
The sham New York indictment of President Donald Trump is one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents.— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) March 30, 2023
When our justice system is weaponized as a political tool, it endangers all of us.— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) March 30, 2023
This is a blatant abuse of power from a DA focused on political vengeance instead of keeping people safe.https://t.co/LtS1QZWouW
This is a dark day in American history. President Trump’s only “crime” was MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! These cowardly Democrats HATE Trump and HATE his voters even more. When Trump wins, THESE PEOPLE WILL PAY!!— Ronny Jackson (@RonnyJacksonTX) March 30, 2023
I am deeply disturbed by the reports of the indictment. Weaponizing the justice system to target a political rival is a clear danger to our country and democracy. DA Alvin Bragg should focus on prosecuting crime in NYC, not executing political witch hunts.— Rep. George Santos (@RepSantosNY03) March 30, 2023
With all the problems facing our country — many exacerbated by Radical Left governance — now a George Soros funded D.A. issues a political indictment against a former president.— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) March 30, 2023
Leftists are destroying America.
This is third world politics from a Soros DA who needs to be investigated. This is clear and brazen political persecution.— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) March 30, 2023
I proudly stand with Donald J. Trump.
This indictment doesn't pass the smell test. The Department of Justice already looked into the facts and decided there was no case to be made against President Trump. This is the same District Attorney who is notorious for letting violent criminals off the hook in Manhattan, but…— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) March 30, 2023
Shannon Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.