By Tim Reid
(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Senior Republicans in Congress and the party’s 2024 White House hopefuls rallied behind former President Donald Trump after he was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury investigating secret money payments to a porn star star, calling the charges a weapon of the justice system by Democrats.
Republicans’ scathing response to the charge on Thursday reflected the grip Trump still holds over the party and many of its constituents as he seeks a return to the White House in the 2024 presidential election.
Three potential rivals of Trump for the Republican nomination have condemned the charge, demonstrating the fine line they must walk when it comes to Trump, who has a core of diehard supporters among the party’s main voters.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and US Senator Tim Scott, who have yet to officially declare their offers to the White House but are moving to do so, have all criticized the allegation.
DeSantis, Trump’s closest rival for the nomination, is making a lack of personal controversy a staple of his fledgling campaign.
Yet DeSantis said on Twitter that the charge was “un-American” and “weaponizing the legal system to advance a political agenda.”
Pence called it an “outrage”, while Scott condemned it as a “farce”.
In the US Congress, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican speaker for the House of Representatives, said the prosecution “weaponized our sacred justice system” against Trump.
Elise Stefanik, another member of the Republican House leadership, called the indictment a “political witch hunt and a dark day for America.”
Rick Scott, a U.S. Senator from Florida, called the charge a “political vendetta against President Trump,” while fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called it “a catastrophic escalation in the arming of the justice system.”
Trump called the charge a “political harassment”.
He prompted Republicans to react by saying last week that he would be indicted for alleged payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Last week, according to the Trump campaign, it raised nearly $2 million.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said she received the money in exchange for silence about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied the allegations.
Trump is the favorite in the 2024 Republican camp, with support from 44% of Republicans in a RockedBuzz via Reuters/Ipsos poll completed Monday, ahead of 30% support for DeSantis.
But the indictment also poses dangers for Trump as he seeks re-election. Opinion polls suggest that many Republican voters are looking for an alternative to Trump.
House Democrats also spoke.
Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the Democratic House, said: “No one is above the law and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence. It is hoped that the former president peacefully respects the system, which guarantees him this right “.
Ted Lieu, another Democrat in the House, called the indictment a “horrible precedent” but a necessary one if Trump committed crimes.
Jamaal Bowman, a fellow Democrat in the House, said, “It’s time we made sure that Trump is again barred from running for any public office.”
(Reporting by Tim Reid; editing by Ross Colvin, Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.)