Politics

Hill GOP blasts ‘travesty’ Trump verdict — and vows it will motivate party base in November

Congressional Republicans wasted no time in blasting former President Donald Trump’s Thursday conviction on 34 felony counts in New York, projecting confidence that the verdict would further motivate the GOP base ahead of November’s election.

GOP lawmakers blasted the trial as a thinly veiled effort to meddle in Trump’s bid to return to the White House, predicting that he would prevail on appeal — and against President Joe Biden later this fall. Underscoring the clear link between their fury over the verdict and their Election Day hopes, some Republicans — like House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) — immediately posted a Trump fundraising link alongside their statements of support.

“Today is a shameful day in American history. Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon,” Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement. “This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one.”

House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) fired off his statement blasting the court’s decision even as the guilty verdicts were still being read.

“The verdict is a travesty of justice,” said Jordan, a staunch Trump ally. “The Manhattan kangaroo court shows what happens when our justice system is weaponized by partisan prosecutors in front of a biased judge with an unfair process, designed to keep President Trump off the campaign trail and avoid bringing attention to President Biden’s failing radical policies.”

Another staunch Trump ally, top Senate Judiciary Committee Republican Lindsey Graham (S.C.), said in a statement that “I expect this case to be reversed on appeal” and added a forecast that Democrats would pay a price for a trial that Trump supporters see as designed to hurt him.

“This verdict says more about the system than the allegations,” Graham added. “It will be seen as politically motivated and unfair, and it will backfire tremendously on the political left.”

Spokespeople for the Senate’s two leaders, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has had a rocky relationship with Trump, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the verdict.

Trump had been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to bury politically damaging stories during the 2016 presidential campaign. Prosecutors alleged the records had been falsified as part of a scheme in connection with a payoff to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who alleged a sexual encounter with Trump.

Even for Republicans in battleground races this fall, the verdict revealed one clear political path forward: standing with Trump. Vulnerable GOP lawmakers have evinced no qualms about portraying the trial as a witch hunt before the verdict was issued.

“This verdict is a sham and the American people know it,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the Senate Republican campaign arm, said in a statement. “This verdict should be overturned on appeal in order for justice to be served.”

Meanwhile, Hill Democrats cheered the verdict on Thursday after having largely kept the proceedings at a distance while they played out. Their political calculus is more complicated, even as many of them lauded the outcome — focused on a broader campaign-trail message that a second Trump administration would mark the return of a chaotic leader given to trafficking in falsehoods and seeking revenge on his political foes.

“Today’s conviction on all 34 counts proves what we have known to be true all along—Donald Trump is unfit to serve in any elected office, let alone President of the United States. I was proud to lead both impeachments of Donald Trump, and now, I couldn’t be more proud to be a New Yorker now that Manhattan has led the way in convicting him as a felon,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

A familiar refrain from Democrats who weighed in Thursday: The case demonstrated a core U.S. legal principle that no one is above the law.

“Despite his efforts to distract, delay, and deny – justice arrived for Donald Trump all the same,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a key figure in Trump’s impeachment battles and Democratic nominee for Senate in California. “And the rule of law prevailed.”

Rank-and-file Republicans, including potential vice presidential picks like Sen. J.D. Vance (Ohio) and Byron Donalds (Fla.), made the trek up to New York to support Trump over the course of the weekslong trial. They were joined by other congressional lawmakers, including Johnson.

“Ultimately, I have faith that the 2024 election will be decided by the American people, not corrupt judges and prosecutors,” Vance said after the verdict.

GOP lawmakers have repeatedly attacked the case, and presiding Judge Juan Merchan, in personal terms as Trump contended with a gag order that barred him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff throughout the case.

Ally Mutnick, Katherine Tully-McManus, Jordain Carney and Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.

Underscoring the link between their fury over his conviction and their Election Day hopes, some Republicans posted a Trump fundraising link alongside their statements of support.  

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