As Republican lawmakers are meeting in Florida to discuss policy goals and strategies for their new House majority, they are now also having to take into account the possible looming arrest of former president and 2024 presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
House Republicans arrived in Orlando on Sunday, the day after Trump revealed in a post on Truth Social that he is anticipating being arrested in the coming days over charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s Office. Trump said the charges will likely stem from a $130,000 payment he allegedly facilitated to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to stop her from raising claims they had an affair.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said arresting Trump “would be the most outrageous and unnecessary” move.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office may argue the payment Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen facilitated to Daniels constituted a campaign finance violation by Trump during the 2016 presidential election cycle. It remains to be seen if and how the district attorney can charge a campaign finance issue, which is typically a federal legal issue, as a violation of New York state law.
Biggs said the payment Cohen facilitated to Daniels resembled a litigation settlement and seeking to charge Trump over the episode would be a disparate response to how past legal settlements by political figures have been treated. Biggs noted that Democratic President Bill Clinton’s $850,000 payment to Paula Jones, to settle a lawsuit over sexual harassment allegations, was not similarly treated as a campaign finance issue, much less an issue warranting felony charges. Biggs also noted the example of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee making a settlement payment with the Federal Election Commission over misreported funding for an opposition research document against Trump in 2016.
“It’s pretty obvious they want the perp walk, they want the mug shot of President Trump and all those things,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told NTD on Sunday.
Democrats Say ‘Nobody Is Above the Law’
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the former House Speaker, appeared to welcome potential charges against Trump.
“Whatever the decision is of the Grand Jury, its consideration of this case makes clear: no one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States,” Pelosi said in a Saturday press statement.
“[Trump] cannot hide from his violations of the law, disrespect for our elections and incitements to violence,” Pelosi added. “Rightfully, our legal system will decide how to hold him accountable.”
Biggs called this “nobody is above the law” comment a “platitude,” and argued that the Democrats are less adamant about enforcing laws on securing the U.S. border and preventing illegal border crossings, or against left-wing organizations that attack conservative groups.
“If you’re Antifa or Black Lives Matter, or if you’re attacking a pro-life clinic, guess what? You’re going to be okay,” Biggs said, referencing violent and destructive demonstrations throughout the summer of 2020 and vandalism against pro-life organizations after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade abortion precedent last year.
Burchett similarly noted that Bragg’s office has dismissed certain trespassing and resisting arrest charges and lowered punishments for other criminal offenses, such as robberies that don’t involve firearms.
“I think it’s a complete politicization of our legal system, to the point of it kind of mirrors third-world countries,” Burchett said. “It’s just unprecedented. You have a DA basically, who turns his back on violent crimes and lets those people out, and yet he’s going to take a misdemeanor charge and try to ramp it up to a felony.”
Democrats, Republicans Concerned Over Trump’s Calls for Protests
While Democratic and Republican lawmakers are at odds over the validity of the legal case against Trump, they have both expressed concerns over Trump’s calls for people to protest his potential arrest, though for different reasons.
In his Truth Social post announcing his impending arrest, Trump called for his supporters to “Protest, take our nation back!”
Pelosi said Trump’s decision to preempt the possible arrest was “reckless” and a move to “foment unrest among his supporters.”
Mary McCord, a former Obama-era Department of Justice official who now works as the director of the democracy advocacy center at Georgetown Law School, characterized Trump’s calls for protests of his potential arrest as an encouragement for his supporters to act violently.
“Trump knows the call-and-response impact of his words on his most ardent followers,” McCord told The Washington Post. “His call to ‘take our nation back,’ like his last-ditch call for them to ‘fight like hell’ on January 6, is not only the request but the permission for them to act, violently if necessary.”
Republican lawmakers have pushed back on Trump’s calls for protests over a different concern—that such protests could become a venue for agent provocateurs, including undercover federal agents, to engage in violent or destructive behavior and then blame those actions on Trump and his supporters.
Biggs said he is particularly concerned about peaceful pro-Trump protests being infiltrated by inauthentic provocateurs, including possible federal agents because the FBI “won’t tell us how many people they had working the crowd on Jan. 6, 2021.”
“I don’t want to see any violence in connection to protests, even though I think the district attorney warrants being protested in New York City,” Biggs said.
On Sunday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) argued that Trump was not referring to people behaving in a harmful way when he made his call for supporters to protest his potential arrest.