When it comes to Republican lawmakers, hypocrisy knows no bounds, especially when it comes to Donald Trump. With rare exception, they either loudly support the MAGA cult, or are afraid to challenge it—so much so that the GOP should probably be renamed POT (Party of Trump), as in “the GOP has gone to POT.”
In the wake of Trump’s fourth criminal indictment—brought Monday by Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis, charging Trump and 18 associates with racketeering in a plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election—elected Republicans have predictably jumped to Trump’s defense. The Georgia indictment follows the federal indictment brought by special counsel Jack Smith on Aug. 1, charging Trump with conspiring to subvert American democracy by scheming to reverse Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Incredibly, the latest talking point for Trump defenders is that if Democrats want to ensure Trump, the current GOP frontrunner, isn’t elected president in 2024, they should let it happen at the ballot box rather than in the courthouse.
This script ignores entirely that so many of Trump’s legal issues stem from the fact that he wouldn't concede that the previous presidential election had been decided at the ballot box.
Nearly three years after Americans voted him out of the White House, Trump continues to push the Big Lie. He’s even hosting a press conference Monday, promising a “complete EXONERATION” that will prove his tired claims of fraud. Trump has also backed election deniers in races for key state offices (fortunately, most have lost) that could help undermine voters in 2024. Americans have no guarantee that he wouldn’t push the replay button on the well-documented “fake electors” scheme of 2020 in the face of another loss to Joe Biden in 2024.
Nevertheless, in a Wednesday appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas embraced the script.
“I understand that the Democrats and liberals in the media can’t stand Donald Trump and they’ll do anything to stop him. But it would be much better from their point of view and the point of view of the country if they try to stop him on the campaign trail and at the ballot box. And let the American people make these choices as opposed to having rabid zealots like Jack Smith or partisans like Alvin Bragg and the woman in Atlanta make these decisions for them — to try to take Donald Trump out of contention.”
Notice how Cotton dismisses and disrespects DA Willis, not even referring to her by her name or title.
But Cotton was not sharing an original thought. His comments echo those made by other GOP lawmakers who have rushed to use similar talking points to defend the indefensible Donald Trump, without even considering the details of the indictments against him.
As South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Fox News on Tuesday:
“The American people can decide whether they want him to be president or not. This should be decided at the ballot box and not in a bunch of liberal jurisdictions trying to put the man in jail. They are weaponizing the law in this country. They are trying to take Donald Trump down and this is setting a bad precedent.
Are we going to let county prosecutors start prosecuting the … former president of the United States? You open up Pandora’s box to the presidency. This whole exercise of allowing a county prosecutor to go after a former president of the United States will do a lot of damage to the presidency itself over time. To my Democratic friends, be careful what you wish for.”
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It’s possible Graham’s position as a U.S. senator saved him from being among the many co-conspirators indicted by Willis. Fulton County’s Trump investigation did look into a November 2020 phone call that Graham made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where Graham attempted to cast doubt on the state’s signature-matching law for mail-in ballots.
But back to the script. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas had this to say in a social media post on Xwitter:
“The indictments of Donald Trump are all about how Democrats don’t value democracy & the democratic process. Dems fear that if the voters can decide fairly in 2024 they will reject Joe Biden’s disastrous record.”
Cruz even went so far as to play reporter from outside the Fulton County courthouse Monday night (and promote his podcast) on Fox News’ “Hannity” show. Cruz chased soundbites with a stick mic as he waited for indictments against Trump and his co-conspirators to be handed down.
Cruz, of course, led the Senate effort to reject electoral votes for Biden from Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6, 2021.
Meanwhile, HuffPost reports that Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the lead manager in the House’s second impeachment trial of Trump, ridiculed the notion that the justice system should step aside while Trump seeks a second term in 2024.
Raskin told HuffPost:
“Wouldn’t it be great if you could never prosecute anyone for trying to overthrow an election that they lost, because then they can keep trying to overthrow elections? Didn’t Ted Cruz go to Harvard Law School? Gee, you would have thought he would have had a little more faith in the American justice system than that.”
Raskin noted that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution bars from office anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States. Even some conservative legal scholars have concluded that the language disqualifies Trump from holding office, though their scholarship has obviously had no effect on Trump’s 2024 campaign.
RELATED STORY: Conservatives want to bar Trump from ballot under the 14th Amendment? Get in line
Let’s check in with Republican congressional leadership!
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California again reverted to his cherished talking point about the “weaponization of government” against Trump, overlooking the fact that weaponizing the government is exactly what Trump did with Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department during his administration—and Cotton hinted to Hewitt that Democrats could expect as much from Republicans in the future.
McCarthy was up late Monday night, and took to Xwitter when the Fulton County indictments dropped. “Biden has weaponized government against his leading political opponent to interfere in the 2024 election,” McCarthy wrote. “Now a radical DA in Georgia is following Biden’s lead by attacking President Trump and using it to fundraise her political career.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has put his head in his tortoise shell.
Roll Call reported Tuesday that McConnell has remained quiet regarding Willis’s indictment; Spectrum News in Kentucky noted the same on Wednesday.
Recall what McConnell said when he decided to vote to acquit Trump after his second impeachment trial in February 2021.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen,” McConnell said. “He didn’t get away with anything. Yet.”
"We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation," he continued. "And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both New York Democrats, issued a joint statement Monday evening.
“As a nation built on the rule of law, we urge Mr. Trump, his supporters and his critics to allow the legal process to proceed without outside interference,” they said.
HuffPost offered this reaction from Democratic Rep. Nikema Williams, whose district includes most of Atlanta.
“We fully intend to beat the former president at the ballot box but this is about accountability, giving the people who show up to vote confidence that their will be counted,” Williams said Tuesday on a press call organized by the nonprofit Public Citizen.
The last word goes to Willis, who rejected claims by Trump and other Republicans that her prosecution was politically motivated.
"I make decisions in this office based on the facts and the laws," Willis said. "The law is completely nonpartisan. That's how decisions are made in every case."