‘These people will pay’: Outrage from Trump loyalists on Capitol Hill pours in after indictment drops

Former president’s allies in Congress vow revenge

John Bowden
Washington DC
Friday 31 March 2023 01:29 BST
Trump indicted in Stormy Daniels probe as first ex-US president to face criminal charges

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Louise Thomas

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Donald Trump’s Republican allies in Congress seethed with rage over the news that a grand jury had voted on Thursday to indict the former president on one or more charges related to his hush payments to women in 2016.

As the news broke late Thursday afternoon, lawmakers who had left Washington just earlier in the day reacted with fury and bought fully into Mr Trump’s explanation for the yet-to-be-announced indictment: A supposed political hit job by Democrats.

Mr Trump is reportedly facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud, sources told CNN.

House Republican caucus chairwoman Elise Stefanik led the charge of Mr Trump’s attack dogs, deriding Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a “corrupt socialist” and proclaiming that the charges would spur “millions” of Americans to propel the former president back into the White House in 2024.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy followed up a few minutes later, writing that Mr Bragg had “irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election”.

And Ronny Jackson, a congressman from Texas and former White House physician, was less guarded in his statement, threatening outright retribution against Democrats the next time Republicans took power.

“THESE PEOPLE WILL PAY”, declared the congressman in all caps.

The lawmakers seemed eager to latch on to Mr Trump’s narrative despite, as usual, no evidence whatsoever for their claims of “corruption” and no explanation for why it would have been legal for a presidential candidate to spend tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars buying the silence of porn stars and Playboy models in the weeks leading up to an election.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conspiracy-peddling representative from Georgia, tweeted that Congress should “impeach Biden” while adding that some unnamed legal authority should “prosecute any and all crimes”. It wasn’t clear who she meant to do this, given that the US Attorney General is a Biden appointee whom Republicans would never trust with such an investigation, and Congress cannot force the DoJ to prosecute crimes or bring criminal charges against a person by itself.

Jim Jordan, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, simply wrote “Outrageous.” Mr Jordan had attempted to ward off the New York prosecution with threats of subpoenas and investigations by his committee.

Senator Josh Hawley, still reviled by the left for his fist-pump to January 6 attendees before the attack on the US Capitol, wrote that the indictment “isn’t about the law.”

“It’s about power,” the senator tweeted. “Raw power. It’s the Democrat Party telling the nation they will stop at nothing to control the outcome of the next presidential election. It is an assault on our democracy, pure and simple.”

Other Trump loyalists who no longer walk the halls of power also chimed in, like Cliff Sims, former White House director of national intelligence.

“If Trump isn’t the nominee then the election interference worked and the corrupt prosecutors win,” he wrote. “We can’t and won’t let that happen.”

One notable Republican to not comment immediately was James Comer, the new GOP chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee who has led the charge in the House to target Hunter Biden and the president over the former’s personal finances.

Another was Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who has long taken a more cautious tone when speaking about Mr Trump’s various legal entanglements and is understood to be Mr Trump’s greatest rival on Capitol Hill.

The GOP writ large still views Mr Trump as the de facto leader of the party, even as he battles a clear rival in Florida’s Ron DeSantis. That complicates matters for members of Congress on Capitol Hill, who on the GOP side in many (or most) cases live in fear of a hard-right primary electorate who could force them out of office for showing insufficient loyalty.

The party recently re-learned that lesson in 2022, when a number of representatives on the Republican side who supported the impeachment of Mr Trump over January 6 lost their bids for reelection in tough primary battles.

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