In defending Trump, the GOP attacks the justice system

Republican allies of former President Trump are taking to the airwaves to boost his attacks on the justice system and condemn those who say people should respect the justice system that delivered his guilty verdict in the New York hush money trial.

The GOP has long billed itself as the “law and order” party, one that has promoted the justice system and urged the need to respect the rule of law.

But as Trump blasted the verdict as the result of a “rigged, disgraceful trial,” his allies in Congress likewise railed against it.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) called the case a “weaponization of our justice system,” while possible vice presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said it was a “complete travesty that makes a mockery of our justice system.”

Other Republicans who have broken with Trump criticized their party for betraying what they see as its fundamentals.

“Watching my party — the party of law and order — absolutely turn their guns against the jury, against the judge, against the system. And it’s not just like crazy people. It’s people like Marco Rubio and [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [S.C.]. This party has lost all ability to think for itself,” Adam Kinzinger, a former representative from Illinois who served on the Jan. 6 committee, said during an appearance on CNN Friday morning. 

New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s team successfully convinced the jury in New York to unanimously convict the former president on every single one of the 34 charges it brought.

The 12 jurors spent relatively little time weighing the charges, returning a swift decision that found Trump had violated the law by falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

“A panel of citizens, of American citizens that were picked by both the prosecutor and the defense … heard the evidence and called him guilty,” Kinzinger said.

Trump allies verbally attacking the decision have signaled they’ll go further.

Rubio and Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), who is also considered a vice presidential contender, signed onto a letter with six other lawmakers pledging to refuse to confirm any new judicial nominees, blaming the White House for making “a mockery of the rule of law.” They also said they would vote against any swift consideration of Democratic legislation not related to public safety.

To Democrats and a small handful of Republicans, the system worked as intended with the Trump verdict in New York.

“The jury system is an essential democratic practice and institution because it’s a microcosm of the people, and what you get is common sense people who are willing to take in all of the facts on all of the sides, people who are willing to participate in this justice system that includes the presumption of innocence, that includes the right of the defendant either to testify or not testify — as Donald Trump chose to do — and were willing to apply the law to the facts. To me, it was a beautiful thing to watch,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who served on the Jan. 6 committee.

GOP lawmakers have been laying the groundwork to discredit the case since before charges were even filed, with House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) demanding to hear from Bragg before Trump was indicted.

Some Republicans have zeroed in on comments Bragg made while running for office noting his experience investigating the Trump Foundation, but the district attorney never committed to prosecuting Trump, instead saying he would follow the facts in reviewing work done by his predecessor.

Others have similarly focused on small donations made by the judge overseeing the case, Juan Merchan, including $15 to the 2020 Biden campaign. The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct dismissed an ethics complaint related to the donations, and a separate judicial ethics panel said he would not need to recuse himself over the matter.

Many comments made in the wake of the verdict mirror those some Republicans have been making for months and come after allies similarly bashed the case from the courthouse steps while the trial was taking place.

“These MAGA acolytes also came to New York to wage information warfare and discredit the judge and the democratic justice system that dared to try and hold their idol accountable for his crimes,” Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an authoritarianism expert at New York University, wrote Thursday.

“Republicans have been on a larger crusade to delegitimize democratic institutions, turning the public against the courts, judges, the press, and politicians who uphold the rule of law, truth, and accountability.”

With attacks seeming inevitable, John Bolton, Trump’s spurned national security adviser, warned of the danger of undermining the system.

“It’s dangerous to question the integrity of our entire legal system,” he said on social platform X before the verdict was even announced. 

“Our enemies in Moscow and Beijing believe that anything that undercuts America’s general faith in the Constitution weakens America. A lost faith in our Judicial Branch is a win for our enemies.”

The few Republicans who urged respecting the verdict were quickly hammered by others in the party.

“Regardless of the result, I urge all Americans to respect the verdict and the legal process,” former Maryland governor and Senate hopeful Larry Hogan (R) wrote on X before the verdict was read. 

“At this dangerously divided moment in our history, all leaders—regardless of party—must not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship. We must reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law.”

Trump adviser Chris LaCivita immediately responded, “You just ended your campaign.”

Kinzinger said two years ago, such a statement “would have been the response of any Republican in office or running for office on any court case.” He also noted tanking Hogan’s campaign could cost Republicans the Senate.

College Republicans made a similar plea as Hogan for accepting the verdict.

“Today’s convictions are the result of a politically motivated prosecution, but a verdict was handed down by jurors whose decisions were made in accordance with our criminal justice system. As such, the outcome of this trial should be respected,” the organization wrote on X.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), who previously called the verdict “the corrupt result of a corrupt trial, a corrupt judge, and a corrupt DA,” slammed the group for having a “horrendously bad take.”

“The verdict should be condemned as a stain on our nation and our justice system,” he said in response.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said little of the trial in a statement on X, noting Trump’s right to appeal, but she was one of the few sitting lawmakers to degenerate Trump and the way his “legal drama” has overshadowed the campaign.

“A Republican nominee without this baggage would have a clear path to victory,” she wrote Friday.

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