'A shameful day': Congressional GOP slams Trump verdict

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans slammed the historic guilty verdict against former President Donald Trump en masse Thursday as a political maneuver intended to stop Trump from regaining the presidency.

"Today is a shameful day in American history," House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said in a statement. "The weaponization of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden Administration, and the decision today is further evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has long had a strained relationship with the former president, said late Thursday: "These charges never should have been brought in the first place. I expect the conviction to be overturned on appeal."

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said the verdict "will not withstand an appeal, and was only brought as an attempt to interfere with the 2024 election."

More: Former President Donald Trump found guilty on all counts in hush money case: Live updates

Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, a contender to be Trump's vice presidential pick, called it a "disgrace" that amounts to "election interference" and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the verdict "says more about the system than the allegations" and "will backfire tremendously on the political Left."

They argued that the verdict relied on testimony from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who they lampooned as a serial liar.

House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said it "showed how corrupt, rigged and unAmerican the weaponized justice system has become" and that the trial hinged "on the testimony of a convicted felon who was disbarred for lying and perjured himself when he lied to Congress."

More: Trump found guilty: Catch up on the trial's sex stories, secret tapes and court drama

Even Republicans representing swing districts came out against the jury's decision. Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., who represents a district President Joe Biden won in 2020 by 10 percentage points, released a statement saying New York Democrats chose to "wage political war on their enemies."

"Convicting a former President on what amounts to a campaign finance violation in state court after the Federal Election Commission and The Department of Justice both opted not to pursue these same charges tells you all you need to know," he said.

More: Donald Trump found guilty: Will he go to prison? What to know ahead of sentencing

One Republican, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is running for the state's open Senate seat, cautioned ahead of the verdict that Americans should "respect the verdict and the legal process."

"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," he wrote.

Trump campaign advisor Chris LaCivita responded: "You just ended your campaign."

Mo Brooks, a Republican former member of congress from Alabama, called on the GOP to replace Trump on the presidential ticket. Brooks, a former Trump supporter whom the former president later turned against, urged Republicans to "Replace Trump with a good character nominee & BEAT THE STEW OUT OF BIDEN!"

Democrats jubilant

Democrats, meanwhile, celebrated the verdict.

"No one is above the law," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "The verdict speaks for itself."

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it "reaffirms the basic principle that no one is above the law, not even a former president."

"In America, no one is above the law: not the rich, not the powerful, and certainly not any former President of the United States," said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Democratic Caucus Vice Chair.

House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said Trump "made deception a cornerstone of his campaign for the White House. And now, he will go down in history as the president who has two impeachments and 34 felony convictions to his name – with more trials to come."

More: 'We'll keep fighting': Donald Trump, first former president convicted of crimes, calls verdict a disgrace

The Biden campaign, too, lauded the jury's decision but maintained: "There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box."

A jury found Trump guilty on all 34 counts in his New York criminal hush money trial, which has been unfolding over six weeks in Manhattan. Trump called the verdict a "disgrace" in brief remarks outside the courthouse. He has pledged to appeal.

More: How will Donald Trump's guilty verdict hit his reelection bid? Is his political fallout here?

Prosecutors argued that Trump falsified business records to hide $130,000 sent to porn star Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about their previous sexual encounter in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. Trump's defense attorneys argued that Cohen, a key witness in the trial was unreliable, and that he acted alone to pay off Daniels without Trump's knowledge.

The trial attracted legions of Republican surrogates to the courthouse, who sought to publicly show their support for the former president. Trump was under a gag order throughout the trial, under the threat of jail for violations, to prevent him from slamming witnesses participating in the case.

Trump immediately began fundraising off of the verdict Thursday, sending out emails to supporters calling himself a "political prisoner" and saying donor support "is the only thing standing between us and total tyranny." The GOP donation platform WinRed appeared to be overwhelmed with traffic.

More than two-thirds of voters said a conviction wouldn't make a difference in who they choose to vote for in November, according to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist Poll released Wednesday. A quarter of Republicans told pollsters they would be more likely to vote for Trump if he were found guilty.

Trump will be sentenced on July 11, just days before Republicans converge in Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Republicans in Congress slam Trump verdict, vow he'll win on appeal