GOP rushes to defend Trump as Biden raises money following guilty verdict in hush money case


Joe Biden and Donald Trump both focused attention on the stakes in the November election moments after Trump’s conviction Thursday, as Republicans rushed to the former president’s defense.

“There is only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: through the ballot box,” Biden wrote on social media, linking to a fundraising page.

Trump, while castigating the prosecution in his New York criminal trial as a “disgrace,” also pointed to this fall’s presidential election.

“The real verdict will be on November 5 by the people. “And they know what happened here, and everyone knows what happened here,” Trump told reporters outside the Manhattan courtroom.

News of Trump’s conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records sent shockwaves throughout the election campaigns. Republican candidates for governor, Senate and House largely aligned with Trump, while Democrats largely avoided details of the case but said justice prevailed.

03:41 – Source: CNN

Donald Trump found guilty of falsifying business records in hush money scheme

The former president’s allies on Capitol Hill were quick to rally around him, with top Republicans attacking the justice system in the wake of the verdict – while emphasizing the importance of the 2024 election and making their own appeals to fundraising.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who visited the Manhattan courthouse during the trial to defend Trump, enacted what he described as “the militarization of our justice system,” saying in a statement: “President Trump will rightly appeal this absurd verdict – and he WILL WIN.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had a frosty relationship with the former president, said in a brief statement: “These accusations should never have been made in the first place. “I expect the conviction to be overturned on appeal.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise wrote on social media: “I will not stand idly by while the leader of our party is ambushed by our own government. Will you stand with Trump before midnight tonight and condemn this witch hunt once and for all? The Louisiana Republican included a link to a fundraising site.

New York Representative. Elise Stefanik, chairwoman of the House GOP conference and potential Trump running mate, criticized what she called a “sham trial.”

“We must redouble our efforts and work tirelessly to ensure President Trump’s victory in November and save America from the failure of Biden’s far-left Democratic agenda,” she said in a statement.

The senator from South Carolina. Tim Scott, who is also a possible Trump running mate, said Thursday that the US justice system is “hunting down Republicans while protecting Democrats.”

“It was certainly a hoax, a sham. It’s been devastating to the average American watching,” Scott told CNN’s Abby Phillip on “NewsNight.” Turning the verdict into a positive, he added: “Even the ‘Never-Trumpers’ are now calling in and joining the team.” Donors who remained on the sidelines are now joining the team because November 5 is a day of judgment.

Republican Senate candidates behind Trump

Republican Senate candidates also quickly sided with the former president.

Tim Sheehy, who is challenging the Democratic senator. Jon Tester of Montana issued a statement declaring the verdict “rigged” and called the case “state-sponsored political persecution.”

Kari Lake, the Republican is preparing to face the Democratic representative. Ruben Gallego, during the Arizona Senate race, said Americans had just “witnessed the most egregious example of election interference and an outright mockery of the rule of law in 246 years history of our Republic. This entire process, up to the verdict itself, is nothing but a shameful political stunt.”

“This is a terrible day for America and for confidence in our justice system,” said Pennsylvania Republican Dave McCormick, who is challenging the Democratic senator. Bob Casey. “This case should never have been brought in the first place, and this miscarriage of justice is despicable. »

Democrats, meanwhile, displayed more muted reactions — and many made no comment immediately after the verdict.

“I respect our justice system and the rule of law. The process has happened and we should always hold our elected leaders accountable,” Gallego said on social media.

And some Republicans more critical of Trump kept their distance from the former president on Thursday.

When news broke that the jury had reached its verdict, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate candidate in this traditionally blue state, called on Americans to “respect the verdict and the legal process.”

“At this dangerously divided moment in our history, all leaders – regardless of party – must not add fuel to the fire with even more toxic partisanship,” Hogan said in a statement before the announcement. verdict.

That message prompted a subsequent response from Trump senior adviser Chris LaCivita: “You just finished your campaign. »

Not only is Trump the first former president to be convicted of a crime, but he is also the first major party presidential candidate to be convicted of a crime in the middle of campaigning for the White House. If he defeats Biden in November, Trump would be the first sitting president in history to be a convicted felon.

The Biden campaign said in a statement that the New York verdict showed that “no one is above the law.”

“The threat Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater. He is waging an increasingly lopsided campaign of vengeance and retribution,” campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said. “A second Trump term means chaos, stripping Americans of their freedoms and fomenting political violence – and the American people will reject him in November. »

The Biden campaign also sent a text message to supporters warning that Trump was “likely setting fundraising records” after Thursday’s verdict.

Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who learned of the verdict while speaking to reporters before his appearance at a cryptocurrency convention in Austin, Texas, dismissed the significance of the case.

“I’ve been disciplined in not commenting on court cases and talking about issues that I think Americans care deeply about, not issues that, you know, are being used to divide us, culture war issues. I’m not going to comment on that,” Kennedy said.

This headline and story have been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Aaron Pellish, David Wright, Ali Main, Kevin Liptak, Morgan Rimmer, Veronica Stracqualursi, Matt Holt, Haley Talbot, Kristin Wilson, Lauren Fox and Kit Maher contributed to this report.

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