Most Republicans have reacted to the latest accusation against Donald Trump by coming to the former president’s defense and condemning the lawsuit. But if you look deeper, the language they use to defend it is revealing.
It is sometimes said, due to deep political divisions, that the United States are two countries that share the same territory. The same can be said of the Republican Party – there are many parties that share the same political label.
The criminal charges against Donald Trump under the Espionage Act over his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House made these divisions within the party particularly clear.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what the various divisions are saying about the former president’s indictment — and what drives their responses.
This is the group most scrutinized, and the group with the most to lose — the Republicans running against Trump for the party’s nomination to the White House in 2024.
They are the people who want to distinguish themselves from the former president without antagonizing his supporters.
They seem to get around the dilemma by centering their defense on the suggestion that the law is not being applied fairly, since Joe Biden, when he was vice president, also took classified documents when leaving office. The current chief is still under investigation, but the main difference is that he returned the files.
The reaction of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s current closest rival, exemplifies that approach. He appeared to defend Trump when he claimed there had been “unfair enforcement of the law”.
Another presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, said the accusations are an example of “a justice system where the scales are twofold.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is running against his former boss, told a Republican convention over the weekend that no one is above the law. Then he spoke about years of alleged politicization at the Justice Department and the failure to prosecute Hillary Clinton.
However, the situation is fluid, and each of the hopefuls in the 2024 presidential race will regularly recalculate their strategies as events unfold.
This is what happened to the former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, for example. She initially issued a statement that sounded very similar to her fellow presidential candidates. “This is not the way justice should be done in our country,” she wrote on Twitter.
On Monday afternoon (12), during her appearance on Fox News, she changed her tone, criticizing the former president in a more direct manner.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to force Republicans to settle scores with Trump. “The facts presented here are overwhelming in terms of Donald Trump’s behavior, and that’s what we as a party should be looking at,” he said. Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson has called on Trump to drop out of the 2024 presidential race.
But perhaps the most likely candidate, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, is more in touch with the party’s base: He has beefed up his defense, saying he would pardon Trump if elected.
And what about the biggest and loudest Republican faction, the group that supports the former president, regardless of the charges leveled against him? Indeed, the more accusations Trump faces, the more they respond to this argument that this is a joint and coordinated effort to discredit him.
They say the allegations of classified documents are an attempt by President Biden to get rid of a political opponent at election time. Early polls suggest that this accusation has not convinced any of Trump’s true followers to stop supporting him.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said: “It is unacceptable for a president to accuse the main candidate who opposes him.” He knows it was an independent special counsel who brought the charges against Trump, but he needs to retain the support of this far-right conservative faction, led by Jim Jordan.
These Trump supporters don’t even want to get involved in the details of the legal process against him.
The rhetoric of some members of Congress was even more sensational. After details of the indictment were released Friday, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona tweeted, “We’re now at war. An eye for an eye.”
Never (and no more) Trump
Trump lost these Republicans a long time ago — they still sometimes stand with him in the rare moments when they swallow his disapproval because they love his politics: This is not one of those moments.
Bill Barr, Trump’s former attorney general, told Fox News this weekend that he was struck by the sensitivity and quantity of the documents.
“If half of that was true, he did,” he said. “And the idea of presenting Trump as a victim here, a victim of a witch hunt, is absurd.”
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said the allegations, if true, are consistent with other times the former president acted against the national interest.
“Trump has fixed these allegations by not only taking classified documents, but also by simply refusing to return them when he had numerous opportunities to do so.”
But don’t expect to hear many of them speak out against the former president, especially those who still hold political office. It’s a very lonely group.
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