WASHINGTON (CN) — In the hours before former President Donald Trump turned himself in to authorities investigating a 2016 hush money scandal, House Republicans doubled down on claims that the whole exercise is political theater.
A federal grand jury returned the sealed indictment of Trump last week, but its contents would not become public before his arraignment this afternoon. The investigation stems from a roughly $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the days leading up to the 2016 election, aimed at keeping her silent about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has already served three years in prison for his role in the payment.
On Capitol Hill that morning, House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan blasted the indictment and speculation that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would seek a gag order on the former president, preventing him from publicly discussing the charges, calling such a move unconstitutional.
“To put any restrictions on the ability of President Trump to discuss his mistreatment at the hands of this politically motivated prosecutor would only further demonstrate the weaponization of the New York justice system,” Jordan, an Ohio Republican, said in a joint statement Tuesday alongside House oversight committee chair Jim Comer. “To even contemplate stifling the speech of the former commander in chief and current candidate for President is at odds with everything America stands for.”
On Twitter, Republican lawmakers further assailed Bragg’s character by accusing him of prioritizing Trump over prosecuting other crimes.
“Rioters and looters burned Portland and New York City. There was virtually zero accountability,” Jordan tweeted in a seeming reference to national protests that erupted in 2020 in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“President Trump does nothing wrong, but gets indicted,” the lawmaker complained, arguing in a separate post that the indictment would never have happened if Trump was not running for office.
“If Alvin Bragg only indicts Donald Trump everyone gets the joke,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said on Twitter, accusing the district attorney of targeting the former president by any means necessary.
Other congressional Republicans, including Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and New York Congressman George Santos, traveled to New York this week to protest Trump’s arraignment.
Some Democrats lauded today’s arraignment as justice done.
“A true indication that no one is above the law, even a disgraced former President,” California Representative Maxine Waters said in a tweet. “Hallelujah!”
Trump, meanwhile, bemoaned the venue for his forthcoming trial. In an all-caps tirade on Truth Social, his social media platform, the former president argued that proceedings should be moved to Republican-leaning Staten Island from Manhattan. Trump also attacked the New York jurist overseeing his case, Judge Juan Merchan, calling him highly partisan.
Merchan has presided over several cases involving the former president and his companies, including a 2022 tax fraud suit against the Trump Organization and a separate fraud and money laundering case against former aide Steve Bannon.
Trump has already announced that he will seek the Republican nomination to challenge President Joe Biden in the 2024 election. His indictment, the first such action against a former president in U.S. history, could put his campaign in jeopardy if he is found guilty.Follow @@BenjaminSWeiss
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