It’s been two weeks since former President Donald Trump was indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney on 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal evidence of negative stories about himself leaking to the public, according to an article by MSNBC. There is a lot of speculation that these stories could have influenced the 2016 election had they come out.
According to documents released by the Manhattan District Attorney, the falsified business records in question account for $420,000 used to cover up stories of Trump’s sexual affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, as well as one story about a child of Trump born out of wedlock. These hush money payments were made in the months preceding the 2016 election by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former counsel. Over the course of his first year in office, the Trump Organization made monthly payments to reimburse Cohen under the guise of legal service fees in accordance with a falsified retainer agreement.
Upon hearing why the former president was indicted, many may be confused about why he hasn’t been indicted for more severe cases relating to his breaches of democracy, especially since the hush money payments took place over six years ago. In addition to the Manhattan DA, Trump is also being investigated by the DA of Fulton County, Georgia, and the Department of Justice for his involvement with election meddling and the January 6 capitol riots. This makes his indictment potentially the first of many.
Despite all this, Trump maintained his innocence and promised his legal troubles would not stop his 2024 presidential run in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
“They’re weaponizing our justice system,” Trump said during the interview. “It's all disinformation”
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that many still defend Trump and reacted positively to his appearance with Carlson, but it is still alarming.
While news of Trump’s indictment may feel triumphant to those who oppose him, myself included, I feel we might not be paying enough attention to how Republicans are choosing to respond. Many Republicans in Congress, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert and Sen. Ted Cruz, described the indictment as a “‘weaponization of our justice system” on Twitter. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene went so far as to tweet out “Impeach Biden.” and “Enough of this witch hunt bullshit.”
A few Republicans used the events as a call to action to raise more money. According to an article by the New York Times, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent a fundraising email to supporters that read “the deep state thinks this will destroy our movement and keep you quiet” and urged readers to “prove them wrong.” This reactionary language is used without ever being clear about what Republicans are urging voters to do, and it’s natural to fear higher rates of right-wing violence. In fact, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was quoted saying it’s “probably not the best time to give up your AR-15s.”
It would be reductive to classify all Republican voters as endorsers of reactionary violence, a CNN article rationalized Trump’s current lead in the Republican primary polls against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a result of immense support from Republican voters of color who are largely in middle class or lower income communities. The Republican Party has been steadily aligning itself as the party for the working class in the years since the 2016 election while the Democratic Party has aligned itself with wealthier, more educated voters, according to an article by Axios . Democrats could steer voters their way if they made good on benefits promised to these same communities that are increasingly voting Republican and better addressed the issues these voters consider the most important.
Trump’s presidency may feel distant now that we’re right in the middle of Biden’s term, but the violent and passionate response of the Republican Party to his indictment is an indication of all that hasn’t changed since.