Top Republicans, including some of Donald Trump’s potential rivals for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination, rushed to his defense Saturday after Trump said he is bracing for possible arrest.
The reaction underscores the political risks faced by would-be opponents who are eager to convince voters that it is time to move on from the former president. But they also recognize the multiple investigations — Trump’s post on social media about the Manhattan district attorney’s probe led to the public declarations of support — remain deeply unpopular with his supporters and they fear alienating his loyal base.
Among those coming to Trump’s side were House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said a possible indictment would be “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance” against Trump.
McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would direct relevant GOP-led House committees “to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.” McCarthy has not endorsed Trump’s White House campaign, but Trump helped McCarthy secure the speakership after a contentious, multiple rounds of voting.
The comments came hours after Trump claimed in a social media post that he expects to be arrested this coming week as New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg mulls charges in an investigation into hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump. A Trump lawyer and spokesman said Saturday that Trump, who has long denied the charges, had been responding in that post to media reports and had no independent knowledge of any pending legal action.
Trump, in a message on his Truth Social network, nonetheless declared that, “THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK.” He then called on his supporters to “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!” recalling the pleas he made before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Any potential violence spurred by Trump’s comments could change the tenor of reaction. But on Saturday, several of Trump’s declared and potential rivals were quick to blast the district attorney’s investigation.
“Well, like many Americans, I’m just, I’m taken aback,” said former Vice President Mike Pence, who is widely expected to enter the race in the coming weeks and has been escalating his criticism of Trump.
In an interview with SiriusXM’s Breitbart News, he said the inquiry “reeks of the kind of political prosecution that we endured back in the days of the Russia hoax and the whole impeachment over a phone call. And the one thing I know is, I know that former President Trump can take care of himself.”
Pence had been noncommittal when asked Thursday if Trump should drop out if he is indicted. “I think it’s a free country. Everybody can make their own decisions,” he said.
Trump has said he would continue his presidential campaign even if indicted.