Hill reactions: Several Republicans are unfazed by Trump's sex abuse verdict

·4 min read
Charles Krupa/AP Photo

A New York jury found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll in 1996, awarding the advice columnist close to $5 million in damages on Tuesday.

The verdict, which was announced in a federal courtroom in New York City on the first day of jury deliberations, sparked quick reactions from the former president — who continued to deny the allegations — and from multiple members of Congress, including Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

“You never like to hear that a former president has been found in a civil court guilty of those types of actions,” the South Dakota senator told reporters Tuesday. When asked if he could support somebody who’s been found liable for sexual battery, he said: “I would have a difficult time doing so.”

The verdict "creates concern," Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said, but whether or not it disqualifies the former president from his current presidential bid will be up to the voters.

But not all Republicans had the same hesitation. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), who served as ambassador to Japan under Trump, said the verdict was the latest act in the "legal circus" surrounding Trump.

"I think we've seen President Trump under attack since before he became president," Hagerty said during an interview on Fox News. "This has been going on for years. He's been amazing in his ability to weather these sorts of attacks and the American public has been amazing in their support through it."

“This won’t be the last,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who has endorsed Trump this election cycle, said of the case. “I mean, people are gonna come at him from all angles... People are gonna try and convict him on the papers in Mar-a-Lago. [They] Can’t have him win.”

The case and the jury were both "a joke," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, and Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said he believes it is "very difficult" for Trump to get a fair trial "in any of these liberal states.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dodged a question about the verdict during a stakeout with reporters following his meeting with President Joe Biden over the debt limit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump's foe in the chamber, declined to comment, as did Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), an ardent supporter of Trump, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has endorsed Trump.

When it comes to the impact the court's decision will have on voters, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) said he is "highly skeptical" the case will bring Trump down. And Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) doesn't think it will change many minds. "People who love him will still support him and people who don’t, won’t," Cornyn, a McConnell said, adding that it's "too early to tell" what the effect will be, if any.

"He has his due process, and the American people will determine who they want as the leader of this country," said Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-Texas), who has endorsed Trump for 2024.

The ruling comes weeks after the former president was charged with 34 felonies related to the alleged role he played in a scheme to bury accusations of extramarital affairs ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Despite his legal battles, the former president remains the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.

On Tuesday, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said the former president was “unfit to hold office.”

“The *front runner* for the Republican nomination for President of the United States has just been found liable for sexual abuse,” Moulton said in a tweet. “The more these lawsuits pile up, the more of an aggrieved version of Trump we'll get. He is unfit to hold office.”

Moulton wasn’t alone in noting Trump’s mounting legal battles.

“Donald Trump — the leader of the Republican Party — has now been impeached twice, indicted, and found liable of sexual abuse and defamation,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) tweeted. “You’ve hitched your wagon to a real stand-up guy, @HouseGOP.”

First-term Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) also turned the verdict on Republicans, criticizing support for Trump.

“The Republican party will STILL eagerly stand by him to prop him up while they offer their unwavering support. Their subservience is a slap in the face to survivors and all women,” Lee said on Twitter.

The former president has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women, and in the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, he was caught saying that when it comes to women, if you’re a star you can “grab them by the pussy.” Tuesday's verdict was the first time he has faced legal repercussions for sexual assault.

Trump defended himself on social media Tuesday afternoon, calling the verdict “a disgrace" and “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!”

In a statement, Trump's campaign called the case "bogus" and said Trump was being targeted because of his position as a frontrunner in the presidential race.

Daniella Diaz and contributed to this report.