Voices: Republicans play the Trump indictment waiting game

TRUMP_ABORTO (AP)
TRUMP_ABORTO (AP)

Republicans are now anticipating whether former president Donald Trump will actually be indicted and how to proceed accordingly.

The former president took a sledgehammer to the best laid plans this weekend when he alleged that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office would indict him based on supposedly paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels money to keep quiet about their affair on Tuesday and called on his supporters to protest.

His announcement served as a stark reminder that beyond any policy goal – more than tax cuts, anti-immigration sentiments or spreading fear about teenages transitioning their gender – defending the twice-impeached former president is an article of faith for the modern-day GOP.

As a result, Republicans have now had to reposition themselves to make protecting Mr Trump their primary focus. His call came just as House Republicans prepared for their annual retreat ahead of debt limit negotiations with President Joe Biden. They also are trying to deftly keep Washington’s focus on their investigations on the current White House occupant and his son Hunter.

As a result, House Oversight & Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer; Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, who also chairs the subcommittee on Weaponization of Government; and Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil all sent a letter to District Attorney Alvin Bragg asking him to tesitfy.

Similarly, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy denounced what he called “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA” and said he directed “relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy.”

Mr Trump, with an assist from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, notably helped whip votes for Mr McCarthy in January after his bid for the gavel flopped multiple times. As a result, the speaker owes Mr Trump his unquestioning loyalty since his power is directly tied to the former president’s whim.

At the same time, Mr McCarthy said: “I don’t think people should protest this stuff,” while simultaneously saying that Mr Trump’s words were not spoken “in a harmful way.” His contradictory statements represent his dilemma: he knows a mob whipped up by Mr Trump would not just be physically dangerous but politically damaging for the GOP, as was the case with January 6, but at the same time, he cannot bring himself to admit that the former president was inciting people to violence the same way he did more than two years ago.

The announcement also came as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sets up an on-ramp to begin his supposed run for the White House. Mr DeSantis has taken some heat from the GOP establishment for the past week for calling the war in Ukraine a “territorial dispute,” though it is likely that play well with Republican base voters who are sceptical of aiding the country amid Russia’s assault.

Under normal circumstances, a presidential contender should be silently clicking their heels under their desk at the idea that their most credible challenger could be indicted since it means they will drop out or become too radioactive for supporters to get behind them.

But Trumpism is not a normal political movement and these are not ordinary circumstances. And as a result, the indictment puts Mr DeSantis in the uncomfortable position of potentially having to facilitate Mr Trump’s extradition from Palm Beach to New York. Many conservatives and Maga acolytes excoritated Mr DeSantis for his silence during the weekend.

All Mr DeSantis could muster was to slam Mr Bragg for being backed by George Soros, the liberal billionaire financier and boogeyman for the right, while having a subtle dig when he said “Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”

As another famous Floridian once said, the waiting is the hardest part. And for now, it’s all Republicans can do.