Donald Trump’s critics and activist groups have condemned his inflammatory rhetoric and a statement from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as Republicans quickly rallied to the former president’s defense against possible criminal prosecution.
The Republican leader issued a statement accusing the Manhattan district attorney’s office of an “outrageous abuse of power” and announced that he will direct House committees to “immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
Democratic US Rep Daniel Goldman – adding that Mr McCarthy has “no idea” what evidence prosecutors have collected against the former president – noted the irony of Mr McCarthy endorsing a GOP-led panel on the “weaponisation” of federal agencies under President Joe Biden while leveraging his own seat of power “to undermine the rule of law for political purposes.”
Democratic US Rep Ted Lieu also struck back at Mr McCarthy’s suggestion that New York prosecutors are “subverting democracy” with their criminal investigation.
“Do you even know what the charges are? Have you seen any of the grand jury evidence? No,” Mr Lieu wrote. “You are being a craven, partisan politician who doesn’t respect the rule of law. In America, no one is above the law, including the person to whom you bend your knee.”
Former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Mr Trump’s “reckless” announcement predicting his arrest, which she said has been used to “keep himself in the news and to foment unrest among his supporters” as he continues to use apocalyptic rhetoric around his 2024 campaign and potential criminal indictments.
On Saturday morning, Mr Trump announced that he will be arrested on Tuesday, blaming “illegal leaks” involving a hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.
Whatever the Grand Jury decides, its consideration makes clear: no one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States.
The former president’s announcement this morning is reckless: doing so to keep himself in the news & to foment unrest among his supporters.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) March 18, 2023
Media outlets had previously reported that the former president could face possible criminal charges in New York; Mr Trump did not publicly announce whether he had been informed by law enforcement about any charges. A spokesperson for Mr Trump later clarified that there “has been no notification” of any such charges or plans for an arrest.
Mr Trump appears to have been the only person to have “leaked” news of his arrest. He made similar claims during a federal law enforcement search of his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, publicising that a “raid” was underway before law enforcement agencies.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti suggested that Mr Trump’s attorneys were told by the Manhattan DA that an indictment would likely be issued early next week and that he would need to surrender for a court appearance. “That would not be an ‘arrest’ but Trump is trying to dramatize this for his supporters,” he said.
The Independent has requested comment from the district attorney’s office.
In another all-caps post to his Truth Social account on Saturday – roughly 45 minutes after asking supporters to “send your contribution” to his campaign – Mr Trump called on his supporters to “protest, protest, protest” to “save America.” He also claimed that the US is being “led into World War III” while the Biden administration is “killing our nation.”
Mr Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to a federal charge relating to a $130,000 payment to Daniels in 2016 to allegedly keep her quiet about her claim that she had sex with Mr Trump. Cohen was allegedly later repaid the money he gave to her in payments described by Trump’s business as “legal fees,” which could be grounds for felony falsification of business records. Cohen appeared before a grand jury in New York this week for a second time.
“Whatever the decision is of the Grand Jury, its consideration of this case makes clear: no one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States,” Ms Pelosi said in a statement.
“He cannot hide from his violations of the law, disrespect for our elections and incitements to violence,” she added. “Rightfully, our legal system will decide how to hold him accountable.”
A statement from the senior counsel Brad Woodhouse with the Congressional Integrity Project said Mr McCarthy is using his role as House Speaker to “stop justice from taking place, threatening and intimidating those investigating Trump’s alleged wrongdoings with investigations of their own.”
“Kevin McCarthy has turned his speakership over to Trump, election deniers, white nationalist sympathizers and the cult of MAGA and he has lost the moral high ground to lead,” he added.
Speaker of the House of Representatives who has no idea what evidence the state DA has in support of grand jury indictment seeks to “weaponize” the federal government to undermine the rule of law for political purposes. https://t.co/cWi3pZjvyZ
— Daniel Goldman (@danielsgoldman) March 18, 2023
The speaker of the house, who supports the Hunter Biden committee, thinks legit crimes not fair game if it’s his people.
Justice for thee but not for me! https://t.co/gcAz8JIWY0
— Adam Kinzinger #fella (@AdamKinzinger) March 18, 2023
Former Republican US Rep Adam Kinzinger, one of two GOP members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack, fuelled by Mr Trump’s baseless narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, suggested Mr McCarthy’s apparent hypocrisy as he continues to support investigations into the Biden family while he believes “legit crimes [are] not fair game if it’s his people.”
Another-former Republican US Rep David Jolly called Mr McCarthy’s statement “dangerous and ignorant” and “his most aggressive MAGA posture yet.”
Kurt Bardella, a former Republican House Oversight committee spokesman, said Mr McCarthy’s “directive to weaponize congressional oversight and use it to obstruct justice is a bone-chilling development that should not be taken lightly.”