(WASHINGTON) — On Tuesday, a third indictment was filed against former President Donald Trump, this time in connection with his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and remain in power.
Prosecutor Jack Smith has called for a “speedy trial” on the four charges Trump faces in the latest indictment: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.
Trump denies all wrongdoing, claiming political persecution.
The reaction on Capitol Hill was swift, with Republican leaders again coming to Trump’s defense as they did after he was charged in a New York state indictment and a federal indictment in Florida. (Trump has pleaded not guilty in both of those cases. He’s scheduled to appear in court on Thursday on the third indictment.)
Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress, contended in a statement that Trump “did nothing wrong!”
“When you drain The Swamp, The Swamp fights back,” Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, continued, using a pejorative term for the federal government.
Much of the immediate response from the GOP reiterated their accusations that the Department of Justice is being politically weaponized against Trump as he mounts a comeback bid for the White House — which prosecutors have pushed back against.
“The indictment was issued by a grand jury of citizens here in the District of Columbia and it sets forth the crimes charged in detail,” Smith, who is the independent special counsel overseeing the case against Trump, said in brief remarks on Tuesday. “I encourage everyone to read it in full.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday also defended Smith’s work, saying, “Mr. Smith and his team of experienced and principled career agents and prosecutors have followed the facts and the law wherever they lead. Any questions about this matter will have to be answered by the filings made in the courtroom.”
New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican, said in a scathing statement that the indictment is a “sham.”
“Today is yet another dark day in America,” she said.
Stefanik and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy went so far as to suggest, without evidence, the indictment was handed down to “distract” from Republican investigations into the Biden family.
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, scrutinized for being seen running from the Capitol on Jan. 6 after first encouraging pro-Trump protesters earlier in the day, before the rioting, said Tuesday that the “DOJ unveils the latest effort to stop Trump from running against Biden – totally unprecedented in American history.”
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats called the indictment a serious development and said Trump must be held responsible if found guilty.
“The January 6th Capitol attack was an assault on our democracy, and everyone involved must be held accountable, including Donald Trump,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar. Aguilar was a member of the House Jan. 6 select committee that last year recommended Trump be charged.
California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker at the time of the Jan. 6 attack, called the charges “very serious” and linked them to the previous work done by the House committee.
“Through the meticulous and patriotic work of the bipartisan Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, evidence was uncovered about the sinister plot to overturn the presidential election and prevent the peaceful transfer of power, which culminated in deadly insurrection,” Pelosi said, adding, “As this case proceeds through the courts, justice must be done according to the facts and the law.”
In a joint statement, top congressional Democrats — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries — said the third indictment “illustrated in shocking detail that the violence of that day was the culmination of a months-long criminal plot led by the former president to defy democracy and overturn the will of the American people.”
Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat who has spoken about his experience being in the House gallery when rioters breached the Capitol, recalled consoling his colleagues during the ordeal.
“We can’t grow numb to that day. We can’t grow numb to what it meant for our democracy. We can’t look away just because we don’t like what we see,” Crow said.
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