‘Shameful Political Stunt’: Trump Allies Go Off Following Guilty Verdict

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s allies rushed to his defense Thursday following the announcement of a guilty verdict in his criminal trial, blasting the entire process as a political sham.

“This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) posted online only moments after the jury made its decision public.

“The weaponization of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden Administration, and the decision today is further evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents,” wrote Johnson, who early in the proceedings traveled to New York to support Trump.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Trump said what he’s been saying all along, claiming that the trial was “rigged” against him and the judge had been unfair. He also said President Joe Biden was behind the prosecution — but, as in the past, offered no evidence for that.

The flurry of quick responses underscored the knee-jerk support for Trump since he was indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. There was no universe where the outcome stood to weaken his standing among congressional Republicans and key surrogates.

Kari Lake, a U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona who became one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders during her failed gubernatorial campaign two years ago, called Trump’s trial “a shameful political stunt.”

“The star witness in this case was a convicted perjurer, whose testimony before the court was one of the most embarrassing debacles ever seen in a courtroom,” she said, referring to Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who provided key testimony in the case.

“This conviction should be immediately reversed upon appeal, and this legal tyranny will be summarily rejected by the American people on November 5th,” Lake said.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called the verdict “a travesty of justice.” Jordan was one of Trump’s staunchest defenders during his two impeachments.

“The Manhattan kangaroo court shows what happens when our justice system is weaponized by partisan prosecutors in front of a biased judge with an unfair process, designed to keep President Trump off the campaign trail and avoid bringing attention to President Biden’s failing radical policies,” Jordan said in a statement.

Some Republicans were more terse. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) simply posted: “Say it with me: ELECTION INTERFERENCE.”

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), one of the Trumpiest of Trump Republicans on Capitol Hill, called it “one of the darkest days in the history of our country.”

Nehls also echoed Trump in describing Judge Juan Merchan, who presided over the trial, as “compromised to the core.”

“He’s scum,” Nehls said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has said he’ll vote for Trump in November but has otherwise largely abstained from any more supportive statements since he became the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, posted a two-sentence statement hours after the verdict.

“These charges never should have been brought in the first place. I expect the conviction to be overturned on appeal,” McConnell said.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), one of the lawmakers vying to succeed McConnell as the Senate’s GOP leader once McConnell retires in November, also described the verdict as election interference.

“I am furious, and no American is safe from Democrat political persecution,” said Scott, who is close to Trump.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), another potential McConnell successor, got blasted on X for posting that he was on a plane when the verdict came in.

“I’ve been on a flight, but just landed and saw the news. This case was politically motivated from the beginning, and today’s verdict does nothing to absolve the partisan nature of this prosecution,” he wrote.

Before the jury’s decision was even made public, though, one Republican who is no fan of Trump argued for restraint.

“Regardless of the result, I urge all Americans to respect the verdict and the legal process,” said Larry Hogan, the moderate former governor of Maryland who once considered running for president against Trump, and who recently won the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in the state. “At this dangerously divided moment in our history, all leaders — regardless of party — must not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship.”

“We must reaffirm what has made this nation great: the rule of law,” Hogan said.