Trump's grip on the GOP is so total that even his 2024 rivals, from DeSantis to Pence, are rallying to his side after the indictment
Trump's biggest current and potential 2024 foes rallied to his side on Thursday evening.
The top Republicans blasted Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for pushing the prosecution of a former president.
A grand jury has moved to indict Trump on charges likely related to an alleged hush money scheme.
Current and would-be Republican rivals largely rallied behind Donald Trump on Thursday, illustrating the difficulty the former president's primary foes will face as they try to navigate the fallout from a historic indictment.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump's best-positioned potential rival, vowed not to cooperate with any extradition requests Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg may need to get Trump out of Florida. Insider previously reported how DeSantis has little power to thwart such a request as the Constitution requires interstate extradition.
"The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head," DeSantis, who is expected to announce a presidential campaign in May, said in a statement. "It is un-American."
—Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 30, 2023
Even former Vice President Mike Pence, who has condemned Trump's role in the January 6 Capitol riot, heaped criticism on Bragg's decision to prosecute the case.
"I think the unprecedented indictment of the former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is an outrage," Pence told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "And it appears to millions of Americans to be nothing than a political prosecution that's driven by a prosecutor who literally ran for office on a pledge to indict the former president."
The grand jury's indictment remains sealed for now. The Manhattan probe was said to have zeroed in on a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels made shortly before the 2016 election. Daniels has claimed to have had an affair with Trump in the 2000s. Trump has denied that he had an affair or that he did anything wrong as a result.
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who not so subtly hinted in her announcement that Trump's time was up, said the grand jury's indictment was "more about revenge than it is about justice."
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who also served in Trump's Cabinet, struck a similar tone in his response.
"Prosecuting serious crimes keeps Americans safe, but political prosecutions put the American legal system at risk of being viewed as a tool for abuse," Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
Some Republicans have mused about a Trump lane occupied by a less bombastic figure such as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. But Youngkin too was quick to lash out at the indictment.
"Arresting a presidential candidate on a manufactured basis should not happen in America," Youngkin wrote on Twitter.
The tone of their responses isn't surprising. Top Republicans also rallied around Trump after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago resort in what was later revealed to be an investigation into the improper storage of classified documents.
Previous polling has also illustrated that the Republican base is extremely sympathetic to Trump's views. A Quinnipiac University poll found before the news broke that 3/4ths of Republicans would not view charges as disqualifying. A whopping 93% of Republicans also agreed that the New York investigation was "mainly motivated by politics."
Recent national polls have also shown Trump building on his lead extremely early in the GOP presidential race.
Of the potential or declared 2024 candidates, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson responded in the most muted way. Hutchinson, who has not shied away from criticizing Trump in the past, cautioned that Americans "need to wait on the facts.
"It is a dark day for America when a former President is indicted on criminal charges," Hutchinson said in a statement. "While the grand jury found credible facts to support the charges, it is important that the presumption of innocence follows Mr. Trump."
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