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Some Trump rivals are rallying to his side as possible charges loom

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (AP) — Top Republicans, including some of Donald Trump’s potential rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, rushed to his defense Saturday after Trump said he was preparing for a possible arrest.

“The idea of ​​indicting a former president of the United States is deeply troubling to me and to tens of millions of Americans,” former Vice President Mike Pence, a likely Trump rival, said during an interview. a visit to Iowa, an early voting country. State. Tech investor Vivek Ramaswamy, who campaigns in South Carolina, said he doesn’t want to live in a country where “the ruling party is able to use police force to shut down their political opposition.”

The backlash underscores the political risks faced by potential opponents keen to convince voters it’s time to quit the former president, but must contend with the fact that he remains the party’s most popular figure. The multiple investigations Trump faces — his social media post about the Manhattan prosecutor’s probe led to public statements of support — remain deeply unpopular with his supporters, and criticizing Trump too harshly risks alienating his loyal basis.

Trump won similar support last summer after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago club as part of an investigation into his handling of classified documents. The research has also proven to be a boon for fundraising.

Among those who came to Trump’s defense was House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said a possible indictment would be “an outrageous abuse of power by a radical prosecutor who leaves violent criminals walk as he pursues political revenge” against Trump.

McCarthy, R-Calif., said he would direct GOP-led House committees “to immediately investigate whether federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated lawsuits “. McCarthy did not endorse Trump’s White House campaign, but Trump helped McCarthy win the presidency after a contentious campaign that required multiple rounds of voting.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third Republican in the House of Representatives and an early Trump endorser, said the district attorney’s action would be “un-American.”

The comments came hours after Trump claimed in a social media post that he expects to be arrested next week as New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg mulls charges in an investigation into silent payments to women who alleged sex with Trump. A lawyer and spokesperson for Trump said Saturday that Trump, who has long denied the charges, responded in this post to media reports and had no independent knowledge of any pending legal action.

Trump, in a post on his Truth Social network, nevertheless said that “THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY NEXT WEEK.” He then called on his followers to “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!” recalling the pleas he made before the deadly uprising at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Any potential violence sparked by Trump’s comments could change the tenor of the backlash. But on Saturday, several of Trump’s stated and potential rivals were quick to blast the district attorney’s investigation.

Former Vice President Mike Pence addresses an audience at a GOP fundraising dinner, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Keene, NH (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Pence, who has escalated his criticism of the former president in recent weeks, said the news was particularly disturbing, “occurring in what appears to be a politically charged environment in New York where the attorney general and d Other elected officials literally campaigned on a pledge to sue the former president.

“No one is above the law,” he added. “I am confident that President Trump can take care of himself. I will continue to focus on issues that affect the American people. »

Pence had been evasive when asked on Thursday whether Trump should drop out if indicted. “I think it’s a free country. Everyone can make their own decisions,” he said.

Trump has said he will continue his presidential campaign even if indicted.

Ramaswamy, who is already a declared candidate, has previously called on Bragg to “reconsider”.

“A Trump indictment would be a national disaster,” Ramaswamy tweeted. “It is unAmerican for the ruling party to use the power of the police to arrest political rivals.”

Representatives for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another potential candidate seen as Trump’s most serious rival, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday – a decision made public by a super PAC supporting Trump’s candidacy. Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, another declared candidate, did not address the investigation during her campaign in South Carolina.

Ramaswamy called on Haley and DeSantis to join him in sentencing the possible indictment.

Ohio Sen. JD Vance, who won his 2022 race with Trump’s endorsement, said several reporters asked him if an impeachment would lead him to rescind his support for Trump’s campaign.

“The answer is: hell no. A politically motivated lawsuit strengthens the case for Trump,” he tweeted. “We just don’t have a real country if justice depends on politics.”

Prosecutors have investigated silent payments made to two women who alleged sex with Trump decades ago. A grand jury heard from witnesses including former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who claims he orchestrated payments in 2016 to the women in exchange for their silence.

Trump denies the meetings and has framed the investigation as a “witch hunt” by a Democratic prosecutor determined to sabotage Trump’s latest presidential campaign. Trump has said he thinks an indictment will help him in the 2024 race.

Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., a longtime ally, said he agreed.

“The New York prosecutor has done more to help Donald Trump get elected,” Graham said Saturday at the Vision ’24 conference in North Charleston, South Carolina. “They are doing this because they are afraid of Donald Trump.”

Colvin reported from New York. Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Keene, New Hampshire, and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.

The Huffington Gt

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