Republicans Flock To Trump’s Trial To Slam Judge, Court, Law

WASHINGTON ― Republicans in Congress have found a new way to prove their loyalty to Donald Trump: flock to New York City and attack the U.S. legal system at the courthouse where his criminal hush money trial is underway.

Nearly a dozen GOP lawmakers spent Thursday not at work in Washington but hanging around a Manhattan courtroom where the Republican presidential hopeful is facing 34 felony charges of falsifying business records to disguise payments made to keep porn actor Stormy Daniels quiet about an alleged extramarital with Trump a decade before he ran for president.

The goal of the Republicans heading to Trump’s trial is simple: be seen on television bashing the court, the judge, the witnesses or laws in general ― whatever it takes to get credit for fighting on his behalf. It amounts to a party-wide embrace of grievances once held only by Trump and an attempt to link the entire GOP to the former president’s victim narrative.

“I want all of the news to start asking the question, what is the crime?” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), one of the lawmakers at the courthouse on Thursday, shouted at the end of a press event they held. “The defendant does not know the crime that was committed!”

“Beetlejuice!” a heckler shouted back, a reference to Boebert getting kicked out of a musical production of the movie last year for vaping and groping her date.

House Republicans came to Trump's hush money trial on Thursday, making sure to get on television and get credit for assailing the U.S. legal system on behalf of their party leader.
House Republicans came to Trump’s hush money trial on Thursday, making sure to get on television and get credit for assailing the U.S. legal system on behalf of their party leader.

Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

In the weeks since the trial began, Trump has been alternating between sleeping through proceedings and violating a gag order ― 10 times ― that prevents him from commenting on witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, the judge, the Manhattan district attorney or their family members. He’s been repeatedly fined and warned of potential jail time if he keeps it up.

Enter Trump’s most die-hard supporters in Congress, who, especially in an election year, are eager to align themselves with him and carry out his attacks on the rule of law.

“This is a made-up crime!” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) falsely claimed at the press event with Boebert. He accused one of the witnesses in the case, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, of lying. He referred to the judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, as “this corrupt judge” and accused his family members of being corrupt, too.

“We’re seeing today what lengths the Democratic Party will go to try to rig or steal another election,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, falsely claimed at the event. “They tried to do it in 2020. They’re doing it again in 2024 by trying to keep the nominee off the ballot.”

In fact, Trump tried to steal the 2020 presidential election by spreading a lie about widespread voter fraud, and Good was one of the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted to throw out the election results in order to help Trump try to steal it.

“You got a corrupt prosecutor. You got a corrupt star witness. You got a corrupt judge,” Good said, which is precisely what Trump would love to hear. “This is a crooked, sham trial.”

"I'm in the shot, I'M IN THE SHOT!" -- something Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) probably said in his head as he positioned himself to appear in a photo with Donald Trump at the former president's criminal hush money trial.
“I’m in the shot, I’M IN THE SHOT!” — something Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) probably said in his head as he positioned himself to appear in a photo with Donald Trump at the former president’s criminal hush money trial.

JEENAH MOON via Getty Images

The GOP lawmakers who came to Trump’s trial on Thursday are here two days after Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) decided that he, too, should make an appearance. Johnson, who is a lawyer and was the architect of the GOP plan to reject the 2020 election results, called Trump “a friend” and said the case against him is nonsense.

“I called President Trump and told him I wanted to be here myself to call out what is a travesty of justice,” Johnson said at a Tuesday press event outside the courthouse. “This is the fifth week that President Trump has been in court for this sham of a trial.”

“I am disgusted by what is happening here,” Johnson added, saying the justice system is “being abused” in Trump’s trial. There is no evidence of this.

The Republicans who have gone to Trump’s trial have been parroting many of the same attacks on the judge and the judge’s family, and the credibility of witnesses. One reason for that may be that Trump is editing talking points and giving them to his allies to deliver outside of the courtroom. A New York magazine journalist said he saw Trump doing that this week.

Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who was among a group of GOP lawmakers who went to Trump’s trial on Tuesday, disputed the idea that the Republican presidential hopeful is directing his allies to say things he’s not allowed to say because of his gag order.

“It’s almost insulting, by the way, when people try and act as if we as members of Congress, who draft legislation for law, aren’t smart enough to come to our own conclusions,” Mills told HuffPost. “I find it insulting when it’s almost as if we’re being told that we’re being puppets here because we can’t come up with our own original thought process.”

Beyond trying to ingratiate themselves with Trump, some Republicans are showing up to his trial because they’re auditioning to be his vice presidential pick. They include former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

Back on Capitol Hill, some Republicans grumbled about their colleagues ditching work just to draw media attention to themselves for being with Trump. So many GOP lawmakers went to New York City on Thursday that the House Oversight Committee had to postpone a hearing.

“I think they are impacting our schedule, and that’s a problem,” said one House Republican, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “They want to be in the limelight. There are workhorses and show ponies in this place.”

A handful of Senate Republicans have expressed similar sentiments.

“I think it’s a terrible fault for our country to see people attacking our legal system,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Wednesday in an MSNBC interview.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) summed up the situation to HuffPost on Tuesday as “ridiculous” and left us with one question.

“Do we have something to do around here other than watch a stupid porn trial?”

Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.

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