Some Trump rivals are rallying to his side as possible charges loom

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (AP) — Top Republicans, including some of Donald Trump’s potential rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, rushed to his defense Saturday after Trump said he was preparing for a possible arrest.

The backlash underscores the political risks faced by potential opponents keen to convince voters it’s time to quit the former president. But they also acknowledge that the multiple investigations — Trump’s social media post about the Manhattan prosecutor’s investigation led to the public statements of support — remain deeply unpopular with his supporters and they fear alienating his loyal basis.

Among those who sided with Trump was House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said a possible indictment would be “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical prosecutor who leaves criminals violent march as he pursues political revenge” against Trump.

McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would direct GOP-led House committees “to immediately investigate whether federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated lawsuits “. McCarthy did not endorse Trump’s White House campaign, but Trump helped McCarthy win the presidency after several controversial ballots.

The comments came hours after Trump claimed in a social media post that he expects to be arrested next week as New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg mulls charges in an investigation into silent payments to women who alleged sex with Trump. A lawyer and spokesperson for Trump said Saturday that Trump, who has long denied the charges, responded in this post to media reports and had no independent knowledge of any pending legal action.

Trump, in a post on his Truth Social network, nevertheless said that “THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY NEXT WEEK.” He then called on his followers to “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!” recalling the pleas he made before the uprising at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Former Vice President Mike Pence addresses an audience at a GOP fundraising dinner, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Keene, NH (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Any potential violence sparked by Trump’s comments could change the tenor of the backlash. But on Saturday, several of Trump’s stated and potential rivals were quick to blast the district attorney’s investigation.

“Well, like a lot of Americans, I’m just, I’m surprised,” said former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to enter the race in the coming weeks and has stepped up his criticism at the regard to Trump.

In an interview with SiriusXM’s Breitbart News, he said the investigation “reeks of the kind of political prosecution that we had in the days of the Russian hoax and all the phone impeachment. And the only thing I know, is that I know former President Trump can take care of himself.

Pence had been evasive when asked on Thursday whether Trump should drop out if indicted. “I think it’s a free country. Everyone can make their own decisions,” he said.

Trump has said he will continue his presidential campaign even if indicted.

Vivek Ramaswamy, the conservative tech investor already declared candidate, called on Bragg to “reconsider”.

“A Trump indictment would be a national disaster,” Ramaswamy tweeted. “It is unAmerican for the ruling party to use the power of the police to arrest political rivals.”

“Let the American people decide who governs,” he added. “This will mark a dark moment in American history and undermine public confidence in our electoral system itself.”

Representatives for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, another potential candidate seen as Trump’s most serious rival, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third Republican in the House of Representatives and an early Trump endorser, said the district attorney’s action would be “un-American.”

“Knowing that they cannot beat President Trump at the polls, the Radial Left will now follow the example of the socialist dictators and arrest President Trump, the leading Republican candidate for President of the United States,” she said. said in a statement, echoing Trump’s language. .

Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who won his 2022 race with Trump’s endorsement, said several reporters asked him if an impeachment would lead him to rescind his support for Trump.

“The answer is: hell no. A politically motivated lawsuit strengthens the case for Trump,” he tweeted. “We just don’t have a real country if justice depends on politics.”

West Palm Beach, FL - March 13: Former President Donald Trump boards his plane, known as Trump Force One, en route to Iowa at Palm Beach International Airport on Monday, March 13, 2023 , in West Palm Beach, FL. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
West Palm Beach, FL – March 13: Former President Donald Trump boards his plane, known as Trump Force One, en route to Iowa at Palm Beach International Airport on Monday, March 13, 2023 , in West Palm Beach, FL. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Prosecutors have investigated silent payments made to two women who alleged sex with Trump decades ago. A grand jury heard from witnesses including former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who claims he orchestrated payments in 2016 to the women in exchange for their silence.

Trump denies the meetings and has framed the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor determined to sabotage Trump’s latest presidential campaign. Trump has said he thinks an indictment will help him in the 2024 race.

Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., a longtime ally agreed.

“The New York prosecutor has done more to help Donald Trump get elected,” Graham said Saturday at the Vision ’24 conference in North Charleston, South Carolina. “They’re doing this because they’re afraid of Donald Trump.

Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Keene, New Hampshire, and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.

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