From Jesus comparisons to solemn celebration, how lawmakers reacted to Trump arrest

Capitol Hill splits between outrage and cautious optimism after Trump becomes first ex-president to face criminal charges

John Bowden,Eric Garcia
Wednesday 05 April 2023 02:35 BST
Donald Trump leaves court in silence after pleading not guilty to 34 charges

Lawmakers in Washington were divided along the usual lines on Tuesday as the media’s attention was fixated on the Manhattan courthouse where Donald Trump was formally indicted.

It was a cause for fury among Republicans, who competed amongst themselves to issue the strongest statement about the arrest and charging of their de facto leader.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a longtime ally of the former president, criticised New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

“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,” he said. “Not so. Bragg’s weaponization of the federal justice process will be held accountable by Congress.”

“THERE IS NO CASE BECAUSE THERE WAS NO CRIME,” fumed House Republican Caucus chair Elise Stefanik.

Far-right Trump diehard Marjorie Taylor Greene went even further, comparing the ex-president to both Jesus Christ and South African political prisoner-turned-president Nelson Mandela.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who led the charge to object to the 2020 presidetial election results, tweeted that the case was a “travesty”

“I say again: 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,” he said.

One of the most notable GOP reactions came from one of Mr Hawley’s colleagues: Senator Rick Scott, who unlike Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out strongly against the investigation while attacking Alvin Bragg, the district attorney of Manhattan.

“Bragg is grossly politicizing the American justice system and I fully support @SpeakerMcCarthy leading investigations on this,” the Florida Republican tweeted.

Mr Scott is widely known to be seeking to dethrone Mr McConnell and has aligned himself firmly with the former president, a critic of the Senate GOP leader, in his bid to do so.

But their Democratic rivals did not match the same level of energy, preferring instead to hold fast to the “innocent until proven guilty” stance — at least publicly.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called for protesters not to be violent.

“I believe that Mr. Trump will have a fair trial that follows the facts and the law,” he said. “There’s no place in our justice system for any outside influence or intimidation in the legal process. As the trial proceeds, protest is an American right but all protests must be peaceful.”

Representative Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said that the indictment seemed reasonable.

“Mr Trump will, of course, have every opportunity to defend himself in court, like every other defendant in the New York Judicial system,” he said in a statement.

The notable exceptions were progressives like Jamaal Bowman, a House Democrat whose own cautious remarks were punctuated by a clear preference for the former president’s conviction, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who spent part of the day on Twitter sparring with Republicans like Glenn Youngkin who released statements critical of Mr Trump’s indictment.

“This is about the justice system doing its job,” Mr Bowman told The Independent. “Trump made it political when he announced to the world that he is going to be indicted, and he called on people to protest, that made it political.”

“It means one step towards accountability,” he continued. “This is just an indictment. We don't know. We're very far away from conviction. So we'll see where that goes. But you know, America needs a reckoning and I think Trump is essential to that reckoning, when you consider his rhetoric, his behavior and his policies.”

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, accused Donald Trump Jr of threatening the judge in Mr Trump’s case after the former president’s eldest son posted an image of the judge’s daughter on his social media.

She softened her tone later in the afternoon during a pretaped interview with Seth Myers that went live in the evening.

“This is not about guaranteeing one outcome or another. This is about due process, and I think the lack of formal due process for so long really created this question of, do we have an equal society?” she said.

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