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The historic indictment of Donald Trump set off a frenzied 24 hours of reaction from some of the former president's closest allies and GOP rivals. With just a few days before Trump’s arraignment, Geoff Bennett has the latest from New York and White House Correspondent Laura Barrón-López reports from Washington.
Our other lead story tonight, the historic indictment of Donald Trump.
That news has set off a frenzied 24 hours of reaction from some of former president's closest allies and GOP rivals.
With just a few days before Trump's arraignment, Geoff Bennett has the latest from New York.
New York City on alert tonight for potential unrest following the indictment of Donald Trump, the first former president to be charged with a crime. Mr. Trump previously warned of potential death and destruction if charges were brought.
The indictment reportedly includes more than 30 counts stemming from hush money payments allegedly paid to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign. While the specific charges Mr. Trump faces are still sealed, political backlash was fast and fierce, Mr. Trump slamming Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg as a disgrace and dismissing the case as another witch-hunt.
Joe Tacopina, Attorney For Donald Trump:
He's ready to fight.
His attorney says the former president was shocked by news of the indictment, despite Mr. Trump saying on social media earlier this month he expected to be arrested in connection with the investigation.
I have never been more angry about a charge, because, today, the rule of law in the United States of America died.
Former President Trump's supporters quickly flocked to his Florida home.
John Skeadas, Trump Supporter:
If we don't stand up for what's right, then we're no better than Venezuela.
And many of his potential 2024 rivals rushed to his defense.
Mike Pence, Former Vice President of the United States: The American people will see this for what it is.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has been critical of Mr. Trump's role in the January 6 insurrection, said these charges go too far.
The unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States for a campaign finance issue is an outrage. And I think it's clear to the overwhelming majority of the American people that this is nothing short of a political prosecution.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called the indictment un-American. And former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who previously said Mr. Trump should drop out of the 2024 race if he was indicted, called the news a dark day for America, adding that, while Mr. Trump is presumed innocent, the grand jury found credible facts to support the charges.
For his part, Donald Trump spent last night on the phone shoring up support among Republican allies in Congress.
Sen. Lindey Graham (R-SC):
This is legal voodoo. You got a misdemeanor that's been made a felony. Nobody in the history of New York City has ever been prosecuted under this theory, except for Donald J. Trump.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused the Manhattan DA of weaponizing "our sacred system of justice" and said House Republicans would investigate Alvin Bragg's actions.
As for reaction from the White House:
Joe Biden, President of the United States: I have no comment on that.
President Biden choosing not to weigh in as he spoke to reporters this morning, the current president opting to stay out of an active criminal matter, while focusing on his own agenda.
Michael Cohen, Former Attorney/Fixer For Donald Trump:
I decided that really my loyalty can no longer be to a man who doesn't deserve it.
But the key witness, Michael Cohen, who spent hours testifying to the grand jury in recent weeks and previously pleaded guilty to federal charges connected to the hush money payments, said Mr. Trump is finally being held accountable.
He's seething right now. He is beyond angry. He doesn't understand accountability. And, right now, Alvin Bragg has finally put that into his lap.
Donald Trump is expected to be in court for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
When Donald Trump is arraigned on the 15th floor of the courthouse behind me, he will have to enter a plea on the charges. It's not clear whether he will be handcuffed during that appearance, but we know he will be photographed, fingerprinted and processed for a felony arrest.
His legal team is expected to vigorously fight these charges. But a timeline for a potential trial right now remains unclear. Meantime, we have not seen any demonstrators or protesters today. But given concerns about the potential for violence on the scale of what transpired during the January 6 insurrection, the NYPD says it's working with its law enforcement partners at every level of government to prepare accordingly — Amna.
That's Geoff Bennett in New York for us tonight.
Geoff, thank you.
And following all of this here is our White House correspondent, Laura Barrón-López.
Good to see you, Laura.
It's good to see you.
So, what are you hearing from people you're talking to about the initial implications of Trump's bid — he is a current candidate for president — and the rest of the 2024 GOP presidential field?
So, first off, this indictment does not legally disqualify the former President Trump running, so he is continuing to run.
But I spoke to a number of GOP strategists who told me that, in the short term, they believe that this helps Trump, because, essentially, it requires all of his rivals or would-be rivals to have to respond to him, to talk about him, to define themselves in association with him.
And, now, whether or not that extends all the way through the primary into the nomination is a big question. There's a lot of time left on the board.
So we have heard repeatedly Mr. Trump and his Republican allies calling out the — what they call the weaponization of the justice system, calling all of these investigations witch-hunts.
When you talk to extremism experts, in particular, what do they tell you about the implications of that kind of language?
So that language that you just mentioned, Amna, weaponization, has been used by Trump, as well as House GOP leaders like Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise and a number of other Republicans.
They have also used words like — quote — "persecution, witch-hunt."
And I spoke to historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat out of New York University today, and she diagnosed that victimization language.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, NYU History Professional:
This is a talking point of authoritarians to try and get the public to see the forces against them as discredited, partisan hacks and thus retain their reputation for being the ones who are going to drain the swamp, which was Mussolini's slogan initially, clean up the nation, and they are the ones who stand for patriotism, and these others are just targeting them because they don't want the nation to succeed.
So, you heard Ruth say there that those are hallmarks of authoritarian movements.
And she also said traits of authoritarian movements are attacking the press, attacking judges, attacking prosecutors.
What about the prospects of political violence here? We have heard Mr. Trump calling for protests for a week. We saw Geoff reporting there in New York that New York officials are ramping up their security.
Mr. Trump has promised death and destruction if there was an indictment. What should we — what should we look for ahead?
So, on that security that New York P.D. is ramping up, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a big ally of Trump, a House Republican, said that she's headed to New York on Tuesday for the arraignment.
She tweeted that today, saying that she's going to be going there and calling for protests, also calling it a witch-hunt in her tweet. That also comes, Amna, as FOX's Tucker Carlson, on air, as he's talking about the indictment, is telling his viewers that it's probably not a good time for them to get rid of their AR-15s.
And it also comes as Trump and a number of his allies have been using dog whistle attacks, antisemitic attacks against — when they attack DA Alvin Bragg by saying that he is backed by George Soros, who is Jewish.
And I spoke to a researcher at the Soufan Center, which tracks extremism. They track some 32 sites across the web. And they — he told me that the violent rhetoric right now on those platforms is lukewarm compared to January 6, so it's not as intense. But they are concerned because of the fact that it can just take one bad after, the way we saw in Ohio after the Mar-a-Lago raid where there was an attack on the FBI.
And so they are tracking that and very concerned about the potential for more violence.
Of course, we're all hoping it does not come to that.
Laura Barrón-López, covering all this for us, thank you.
Watch the Full Episode
Geoff Bennett serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour. He also serves as an NBC News and MSNBC political contributor.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
Amna Nawaz serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour.
Laura Barrón-López is the White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, where she covers the Biden administration for the nightly news broadcast. She is also a CNN political analyst.
Tess Conciatori is a politics production assistant at PBS NewsHour.
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