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Congressional Republicans Rally Around Trump After Indictment
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Congressional Republicans Rally Around Trump After Indictment

House GOP leaders reaffirm their pledge to investigate the Manhattan district attorney.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Bogus. Bulls—t. Blatantly political.

That’s how congressional Republicans overwhelmingly described Thursday night’s indictment of former President Donald Trump by a New York grand jury. It’s historic for a former president to face criminal charges—and, without having seen the full details, congressional Republicans argue it is an improper attempt to influence the 2024 presidential election.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that the indictment has “irreparably damaged our country” and pledged to hold Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accountable. Republicans also renewed their calls for Bragg to explain himself in testimony to Congress and said they will look into whether any federal funds contributed to Bragg’s investigation. Three GOP House committee chairs—Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil, and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer—sent Bragg a letter earlier this month demanding he appear before congressional staff to answer questions. Bragg has resisted the demand to sit for a transcribed interview. House Republicans may pursue a subpoena next.

Republicans on the Senate side weren’t as quick to respond last night as their House counterparts, although the ones who made statements were still firmly in Trump’s corner. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley described the indictment as “pure politics.” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called yesterday a turning point in American history and said the Founding Fathers were weeping. 

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t commented on the indictment yet.

Members are out for a two-week Easter and Passover recess, giving them a chance to avoid questions from reporters about it. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, argued the indictment shows Trump is “subject to the same laws as every American.” 

As my Morning Dispatch colleagues wrote this morning, the case appears to hinge on an alleged $130,000 in hush money during the 2016 presidential race to keep porn actress Stormy Daniels from talking about an affair with Trump. CNN reported yesterday that Trump will face more than 30 counts related to business fraud. A clearer picture will emerge next week, when Trump is expected to appear in court. 

We’ll refrain from too much commentary about the case in this newsletter until the indictment is public. For now, you can listen to Sarah and David’s Advisory Opinions episode about it, based on what we know thus far.

While some Republican lawmakers focused on legal analysis, others jumped to political punditry. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted Trump will both win in court and at the ballot box. And Rep. Clay Higgins, a Louisiana Republican, wrote that the “anti-American left is going to f—k around and find out. In the end… Trump wins.”

Trump has urged his supporters in recent weeks to protest his indictment. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who previously said Trump’s allies don’t need to protest, has reversed course. She said Friday morning she plans to travel to New York on Tuesday.

“We MUST protest the unconstitutional WITCH HUNT,” she wrote.

New York police stepped up patrols Thursday night after the indictment was reported and planned to have all 35,000 officers ready and in uniform today. The U.S. Capitol Police force has also been monitoring online chatter related to the matter. GOP rhetoric about the case is certainly heated. Maryland GOP Rep. Andy Harris wrote that Americans now “live in a third-world banana republic” where prosecutors target political enemies. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Harris added, “has nothing on Alvin Bragg.” (He failed to mention that Putin’s critics often find themselves dead under unusual circumstances, and his unprovoked war against Ukraine has included human rights abuses and attacks against civilians.)

Trump’s characterization of Thursday’s events was even more direct: “THIS IS AN ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE.”

Scholten Introduces Child Labor Bill

My colleague Harvest has a piece on the site today about new legislation from Michigan Rep. Hillary Scholten responding to reports of exploitative labor conditions for children, especially immigrants, in her Grand Rapids district.

Scholten’s legislation, introduced alongside GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, hikes the civil penalties—tenfold in some cases—for companies that break child labor laws. From Harvest:

Their bill is only two pages long and has one focus. Current federal law (passed in 1938) caps the maximum fine companies can incur for a child labor violation at $15,138 unless the violation leads to serious injury or death, which can bump the fine to $68,801. Scholten and Mace’s Justice for Exploited Children Act would raise those to $132,270 and $601,150, respectively. It would also institute new minimum fines for violations: $5,000 for any violation and $25,000 for those resulting in serious injury or death. The fines would rise and fall in correlation with inflation.

“This is not a controversial piece of legislation,” Scholten said in a press release about the bill. “It is a commonsense, bi-partisan one.”

The legislation comes after a recent New York Times investigation found at least 100 migrant children in 20 states working illegally. Some children have been injured and killed on job sites in recent years.

Read Harvest’s full story here.

Checking in on the TikTok Debate

My colleague Price takes a look at one of the leading bills to potentially ban TikTok, the RESTRICT Act, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner and John Thune earlier this month. It has 25 cosponsors and support from the White House. But China hawks argue it won’t go far enough, and civil libertarians worry about it encroaching on free speech. More from Price:

Unlike bills introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, the RESTRICT Act wouldn’t target TikTok or ByteDance directly. Instead, it would authorize Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to “review and prohibit certain transactions between persons in the United States and foreign adversaries.” The secretary, in consultation with the rest of the executive branch, could then use that authorization to ban or otherwise restrict TikTok or other foreign tech products.

The bill would give the commerce secretary 180 days from its passage to review any “covered transactions”—those involving entities directly or indirectly under the control of a “foreign adversary”—and then another 180 days to determine whether those transactions constitute an “undue or unacceptable risk” and thus whether they should be “prohibited” or mitigated. Afterwards, the secretary would publicly explain why the denied or mitigated transaction represented a risk.

Read Price’s story here.

Presented Without Comment

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.