Republicans drop their almost automatic support for Trump

The Republican Party quickly and forcefully publicly endorsed Donald Trump hours after federal agents seized classified documents from his Florida estate last summer.

Four months later, that sense of intensity and urgency is nonexistent — at least for now — after the House Committee charged with investigating the violent insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 voted to recommend have the Department of Justice file criminal charges against you. Top Republican leaders largely dodged Monday’s landmark recommendation, while some who were pressured to speak offered muted defenses or none at all.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called for “an immediate and thorough explanation” after the FBI executed the August search warrant in Mar-a-Lago. On Monday, he told reporters that he had only one “immediate observation” about the filing of criminal charges: “The entire nation knows who was responsible that day.” Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who called for the resignation of Attorney General Merrick Garland after the search, was silent on the committee’s request and focused on alleged FBI mistakes.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Trump critic who has suggested that the former president likely benefited — politically, at least — from the FBI’s search of his Florida estate in the summer, opined that Trump was at least partially responsible for the deadly assault on the Capitol.

“No one is above the law,” Hogan told The Associated Press shortly before the panel vote.

The divergent responses are an indication of how quickly the political landscape has changed for Trump as he faces a new legal threat, just a month after he announced his third campaign for the White House.

It’s a marked change for a party that has been defined, above all, by its uncompromising loyalty to Trump under absolutely all circumstances for the past six years.

The commission’s Monday hearing Jan. 6, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans critical of Trump, likely marks the latest attempt by Congress to hold the former president accountable for the attack on Capitol Hill by hundreds of his supporters while authorities they were about to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory in the 2020 presidential election.

The non-binding criminal charge recommendation capped a year-long investigation that included more than 1,000 witnesses, 10 televised public hearings and more than a million documents.

The panel, which House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy boycotted as a “sham process,” will formally disband on January 3 as Republicans take over the House majority.

Always defiant, Trump assured that the recommendation would end up helping him.

“These people don’t understand that when they come for me, people who love freedom rally around me. This strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” Trump wrote in a statement posted on his social network, where he condemned the recommendation as “a partisan attempt to sideline me and the Republican Party.”

This week’s vote came just a month after Trump formally launched his campaign for the White House in 2024. He had hoped his heralded status could give him a new edge in his many legal entanglements while dodging potential Republican challengers. in the primary elections.

Such hopes have not materialized yet. Early polls indicate that the 76-year-old former president is not assured of winning the 2024 nomination against emboldened Republican rivals already gearing up to run against him.

Already weakened, Trump is also bracing for the possible release of his tax returns, which he has tried for years to keep out of public view. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee was scheduled to consider the disclosure of six years of Trump’s taxes, as well as people connected to his businesses, though it was not immediately clear when any such tax might be available to the public. document.

Yet Trump’s biggest burden heading into the upcoming presidential election may have little to do with his troubles with the law. Republicans are increasingly uneasy about their ability to win.

GOP concerns about Trump’s electoral power intensified after the November midterms, when Trump’s handpicked candidates in several high-profile races were defeated. The setbacks followed deeper Republican losses in the previous two national elections under Trump’s leadership.

In fact, the first few weeks of Trump’s third presidential campaign are going so badly that some Trump allies are privately wondering if he is serious about his 2024 ambitions.

Trump faced Republican demands that he apologize for his decision last month to share a private meal with notorious white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Days later, Trump called for the “stripping” of parts of the Constitution related to his lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Days later, the candidate he chose for a very important race for a Georgia Senate seat, former football star Herschel Walker, lost the runoff election.

Trump has not held any campaign events. Last week, after anticipating a “BIG ANNOUNCEMENT,” he unveiled a line of digital trading cards featuring him as a superhero.

At the same time, the procedural challenges for Trump are mounting.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last month appointed special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate, as well as key issues in a separate probe involving the insurrection and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia is separately investigating attempts to overturn that state’s 2020 election results.

It is impossible to predict how much longer the investigations will last or if the Justice Department will take the unprecedented step of criminally charging a former president and current candidate. However, Trump is no longer shielded from legal action as he was when he was president.

Furthermore, his party is less and less willing to back him.

The Republican National Committee announced it would stop paying some of Trump’s court costs after he launched his 2024 presidential campaign.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, a 2024 presidential prospect who strongly condemned the FBI after it seized classified documents from Trump’s estate, offered somewhat muted criticism of the Jan. 6 commission when given the chance.

“As I wrote in my book, the President’s actions and words on January 6 were reckless, but I don’t think it’s criminally punishable to accept bad advice from lawyers,” Pence told Fox News. “Regarding the Department of Justice’s decision to bring charges in the future, I hope they don’t bring charges against the former president,” she added.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is also considering seeking the White House in 2024, acknowledged Trump’s role on Jan. 6 but said the recommendation for criminal charges is “not helpful” to the Justice Department’s investigation.

“It is clear that former President Trump is responsible for what happened on January 6, but accountability is more likely to come from the American people who are ready for our country to put the events of January 6 behind us,” he tweeted.

So far, only a handful of members of Congress have endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential bid.

One of them, the third-ranking Republican House representative, Elise Stefanik, called the Democratic-led commission “unconstitutional and illegitimate.” She considered that Trump was well positioned heading into the 2024 presidential race.

“So far,” he announced just a few weeks ago, “the only frontrunner is Donald Trump and he is significantly imposing himself on the rest,” Stefanik told The Associated Press on Monday. “So we’ll see what happens, but I think he’s in a very strong position.”


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Michelle L. Price in New York; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report

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