Former President Trump is plunging Republican lawmakers into more turmoil over his legal troubles, setting them on edge by calling for mass protests in case he is arrested by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
As much as Republican senators try to escape from what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the “chaos” and “negativity” surrounding Trump, the former president finds new ways to pull the GOP back into the orbit and make the news of the day all about him.
“It’s going to blow up our country and it’s a bunch of B.S.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned in a Fox News interview Tuesday.
Graham accused Bragg of acting because of political pressure and slammed him as “George Soros-backed prosecutor” because the billionaire financier gave money to Color of Change PAC, which endorsed Bragg’s 2021 election.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday tweeted that a Trump indictment “would be a disgusting abuse of power” and “the DA should be put in jail.”
Republican senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham responded emphatically to a potential indictment of former President Trump. (Greg Nash)
Many other Senate Republicans are trying keep their party from becoming engulfed by the tumult surrounding Trump, which they see as a political drag heading into the 2024 election.
McConnell in November said Republicans failed to win back the Senate because the party was associated with “too much chaos” and “too much negativity” that “turned off a lot of these centrist voters.”
The Senate GOP leader usually plays the role of the adult in the room at moments if political crises. He’s tried this year to keep the national spotlight on President Biden and his policies instead of Trump-related dramas.
But McConnell is away from the Capitol again this week after falling and suffering a concussion at a private dinner on March 8 and many of his Republican colleagues miss his steadying personal influence on the party.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s absence from Washington has Republicans missing his calming presence during this time. (Greg Nash)
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), an adviser to the Senate Republican leadership team, said Tuesday that he’s not eager to see Republicans drawn into a political battle with Bragg, responding to a letter that three House GOP chairmen sent to the district attorney Monday requesting he testify before Congress.
“I would think that there’s more than enough to do and I would hope they’d stick to the agenda they ran on when they got elected to the majority,” he said of his Republican colleagues in the House.
Republican lawmakers who want the party to move on from Trump are worried that an indictment of the former president might boomerang on the Manhattan district attorney and have the effect of rallying GOP voters around Trump.
“It’s likely to backfire. The case won’t survive, it’s legally frivolous,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “If Bragg brings it to a jury and loses, ironically this left-wing Soros DA could play a pivotal role in reelecting Donald Trump as president.”
“I don’t think the country is going to blow up,” Cruz said, before adding “I do think it’s likely to rally Republican primary voters behind Trump.”
Sen. Ted Cruz said an indictment of former President Trump likely would rally voters behind him, something Republicans that want to move on from him are worried about. (Greg Nash)
Cruz has not made an endorsement in the 2024 presidential primary.
Trump’s calls for mass protests has stirred nervous memories of Jan. 6, 2021, and prompted police to set up crowd control barriers around the Capitol to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
The former president’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, warned of “all-out war” if he is indicted.
A Manhattan courthouse where a judge was to hear a $250 million fraud lawsuit against Trump was forced to close briefly Tuesday after it received a bomb threat.
The Senate sergeant-at-arms informed senators on Monday that there had not been any specific or credible threats against the Capitol but warned of the “potential for demonstration activity.”
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), one of the few Republican senators who has publicly endorsed Trump’s 2024 White House campaign, said any indictment would be an attempt at “political assassination.”
“It’s going to look to the average person out there [as] a political assassination … going after a political candidate. It doesn’t look good for our country,” he said.
Tuberville said turmoil surrounds Trump “because he’s outspoken and Democrats don’t like him because he stands for ‘Make America Great Again’ and that’s not really on their agenda,” he said.
The looming indictment is giving heartburn to some Democrats, who worry that it may backfire.
“There’s many reasons not to support Donald Trump. There’s many reasons why Donald Trump should not be president again of the United States but you should not allow the court system to be viewed as a political pawn,” warned Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is up for reelection next year in a state that Trump carried by large margins in 2016 and 2020.
“I think it would basically have the reverse effect as what some people would think, not for the good,” he said, predicting a public backlash.
Al Weaver contributed.