Why Trump loyalists, VP contenders are flocking to ‘hush money’ trial: ‘It’s about paying homage’

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Donald Trump’s Manhattan “hush money” trial has been the place for prominent Republicans to see and be seen in recent days — with some hoping the 45th president will remember their loyalty if he gets elected the 47th president this fall, sources tell The Post.

On Tuesday, Trump was flanked by former 2024 primary rivals Vivek Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, as well as House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and a pair of Florida GOP congressmen, Byron Donalds and Cory Mills.

Other boldface political names to swing by Manhattan Criminal Court include Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) as well as Staten Island Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.

“It is about paying homage to Trump and positioning themselves for something should he win in November,” one person close to the Republican National Committee said Tuesday.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Rep. Cory Mills look on as former President Donald Trump talks to the media outside Manhattan criminal court in New York. AP

Trump has said he will announce his running mate choice closer to July’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, but several supporters who have shown up to the courthouse — including Burgum, Donalds, and Vance — are widely considered to be contenders for other White House posts if they don’t land the No. 2 role.

“Sure, they want to be VP, who doesn’t?” one Republican operative said Tuesday. “But calling this a ‘VP tryout’ or whatever is oversimplifying it.

“Any Republican who wants to be in good standing with President Trump and the voters will show up to New York,” the person added. “The Democrat Party is abusing the legal system to try to imprison Joe Biden’s political opponent.”

Ramaswamy is not being considered for VP, but could land a Cabinet position, a source familiar previously told The Post. REUTERS
Trump spoke positively of Byron Donalds at his Mar-a-Lago luncheon earlier this month. AFP via Getty Images
Vivek called the trial “one of the most depressing places I have been in my life.” Getty Images

The phalanx of political backers also serves a second purpose for Trump: Unlike the former president, his allies can speak publicly about the case without fear of violating a sweeping gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan.

The source close to the RNC called the displays of support “partly an attempt by the Trump campaign to generate new news — which isn’t easy to do — and also an especially clever attempt to get around the gag order by having non-lawyers and non-representatives say things Trump may not be able to say.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., left and Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right arrive at a press conference across the street from the Manhattan criminal court. AP

Merchan barred Trump in March from speaking about likely witnesses, jurors, attorneys and court staff involved in the trial.

The 77-year-old defendant has already violated the gag order 10 times and is under threat of jail time for future flouting of Merchan’s writ.

On Monday, Vance, Tuberville and Malliotakis sounded off on Michael Cohen, Trump’s one-time “fixer,” who took to the stand for two days of testimony against his former boss.

“He’s a convicted felon,” Tuberville said about Cohen. “I mean, this guy is giving an acting scene.”

Vance also tore into Cohen on X, sarcastically calling him a “stand up guy” and questioning his memory.

“Cohen can’t remember how old his son is or how old he was when he started to work for Trump but I’m sure he remembers extremely small details from years ago!” Vance posted.

JD Vance takes pictures of former President Donald Trump outside the Manhattan Criminal Court room during trial. via REUTERS
Donald Trump appears with his attorney Todd Blanche (L) in court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 14, 2024 in New York City. Getty Images
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., left, and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y.,right, wait in the hallway outside the courtroom for the arrival of former President Donald Trump. AP

“He’s a convicted, disbarred perjurer,” Malliotakis told reporters of Cohen outside the courthouse.

Some maintain the show of support is less palace intrigue and more genuine feeling

“While the media is obsessed with looking at everything through the lens of VP jockeying, JD went to court yesterday for one very simple reason: To show support for his friend,” a source close to Vance told The Post. “No one on the Trump team asked him to go, he just thought it was the right thing to do.”

The trial is taking place each weekday apart from Wednesday, with Trump receiving permission from Merchan to attend his son Barron’s high school graduation in Florida Friday.

The former president is also taking advantage of his old New York support network to host a large fundraiser Tuesday night in Manhattan, with tickets running as high as $844,600, according to an invite obtained by The Post.

The Democratic National Committee lashed out at the Trump supporters showing up to court, accusing the former president of needing “emotional support.”

“Donald Trump is convening the saddest posse of MAGA loyalists in Lower Manhattan today, desperate for emotional support and political cover as he spends another week tending to his personal affairs rather than talking to actual voters,” DNC Rapid Response Director Alex Floyd said in a statement.

“Trump’s pathetic band of MAGA extremists seemingly have nothing better to do than echo Trump’s lies and nod approvingly in the background – because they certainly aren’t doing their day jobs of serving their constituents or running a functional political operation.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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