In the dizzying turmoil of 2024 Republican politics, Donald J. Trump’s rivals spent weeks preparing for Trump’s second indictment with more fear than chance.
After years of sporadic scandals, the immediate instincts of so many Republican voters are thoroughly ingrained. They will defend Trump no matter how outrageous the charges are and whoever accuses them, whether they are Democrats, the press, local prosecutors, or now federal prosecutors. . After Trump was indicted for the first time in Manhattan, donations surged. And he solidified his support in the polls.
Even prominent Republicans whose party hoped to remove Mr. Trump in 2024 had concerns ahead of the indictment. They have long resented the indifference of Trump’s supporters to nearly every attack and debate, and have flocked to neutralize what they almost habitually perceived as a political threat.
“There are a lot of people who don’t buy anything,” said Republican New Hampshire Governor Chris Snunu, who announced this week that he would not be running for president in 2024, in a recent interview. “The Democrats are like wolf boys. ‘Oh, no, no. But this is genuine. ‘”
“We have created a situation where many Republican voters intuitively ignore any criticism of the former president,” he added.”
On Thursday night, Trump’s rivals immediately felt the displeasure of joining a chorus of conservatives quickly rallying in support of Trump or appearing not to be part of the Republican team at this time of heightened tribal politics. faced with a difficult choice. Most of those who did speak out stood for the candidates who dominated them in the polls.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did not explicitly defend Trump, but said, “Weaponizing federal law enforcement is a deadly threat to the free society.”
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott also condemned the “weaponization of the Justice Department” in a scheduled Fox News interview before the indictment. “You don’t have to be a Republican to see injustice,” he said.
And hard-line but long-term candidate entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy went even further, pledging to “promisely pardon Trump on January 20, 2025.”
The exception was former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who clung to the fringes of the campaign as a bastion of old-fashioned Republicanism. He called on Trump to call off the campaign.
Most Republicans, conservative pundits and Trump supporters quickly stepped up pressure to get behind the former president, who faces charges from a special counsel appointed by Biden’s Justice Department. The headline “Peak Witch Hunt” rang out on Breitbart banners. The pro-Trump super PAC circulated statements of support from more than 50 elected officials and conservatives within four hours of Trump announcing his indictment.
“This will only cause a storm of support,” said former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, host of “War Room,” a streaming show popular with the party’s right-wing supporters, in a text message. “Rivals would be wise to ‘heavily’.”
Trump has raised $4 million in 24 hours since the last indictment. His campaign sent out its first emailed petition for cash less than 30 minutes after making the case public.
There are long-term questions about the political implications of the indictment, adding another piece of baggage for a former president who has been twice impeached and twice indicted. Then there is the question of actual legal risks. Specific charges include willful retention of defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
But on the cable channel Fox News, which serves as an information distribution system for millions of Republican primary voters, Thursday’s report, even if the details weren’t made public, said Trump was facing federal law. Nearly everyone was astonished at the seven charges that were charged. not yet. Host Mark Levin called out, “June 8th is Rebellion Day, not January 6th.” Banners and recurring corners of breaking news touted Democratic apostasy and scandals that didn’t lead to prosecution, from Hillary Clinton to President Biden.
FOX News host Pete Hegseth encouraged Trump’s 2024 rivals to band together and travel to Florida, saying Trump was summoned to federal court next week and said, “All Republican candidates , I should go to Miami on Tuesday night.” — stood behind — stood for justice in this country and said ‘I might run for president’ — Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, whoever Ron DeSantis — ‘But this is unjust. 』
Hegseth added: “I don’t think they stand a chance given what President Trump is up against.”
South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican who has occasionally been an outspoken critic of Trump, made a similar statement on the same network. “Tonight, I believe Joe Biden secured Donald Trump’s 2024 Republican nomination,” Mace said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the highest-ranking Republican elected in the United States, was among those calling for solidarity in Trump’s support beyond parochial political considerations.
“I and all Americans who believe in the rule of law stand by President Trump,” McCarthy tweeted.