Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Some Trump rivals rally to his side as possible charges loom

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2023 | 6:13 PM
Former Vice President Mike Pence faces reporters after making remarks at a GOP fundraising dinner, March 16, 2023, in Keene, New Hampshire. Top Republicans, including some of former President Donald Trump’s potential rivals for the party’s nomination, rushed to his defense on Saturday after Trump said he is bracing for possible arrest. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (AP) — Top Republicans, including some of Donald Trump's potential rivals for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination, rushed to his defence Saturday after Trump said he is bracing for possible arrest.

“The idea of indicting a former president of the United States is deeply troubling to me as it is to tens of millions of Americans,” said former Vice President Mike Pence, a likely Trump rival, during a visit to Iowa, an early-voting state.

Tech investor Vivek Ramaswamy, campaigning in South Carolina, said he didn't want to live in a country where “the party in power is able to use police force to arrest its political opposition.”

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 who must contend with the fact that he remains the most popular figure in the party.

The multiple investigations Trump is facing — his 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 criticising Trump too harshly risks alienating his loyal base.

Trump garnered similar support last summer after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago club as part of an investigation into his handling of classified documents. The search also proved a fundraising boon.

Among those coming to Trump's defence were House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said a possible indictment would be “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical district attorney who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance” against Trump.

McCarthy 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 campaign that required multiple rounds of voting.

New York Representative Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican and an early Trump endorser, said action by the district attorney would be “unAmerican.”

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.

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