With Donald Trump indicted for handling classified government documents, one would think his opponents in the Republican presidential race could be cheering. But they don’t.
The announcement by Donald Trump on his online platform Truth Social that charges have been brought against him in the document affair has put his inner-party rivals in the race for the White House under pressure: They have to commit to the historic push by the US judiciary, for the first time in the history of the United States to impeach a former president at the federal level.
Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence and co. could be happy that their worst rival has more legal trouble to deal with and his reputation is further damaged. They could even use the allegations of special counsel Jack Smith as a weapon against the 76-year-old in the primary campaign.
Instead, the competitors could also follow the arguments of Trump and the Maga Republicans. They consider the allegations completely unjustified and accuse the actual opponent in the presidential election in November 2024, incumbent Joe Biden, of abusing the Justice Department for a witch hunt against Trump.
This is how Trump’s competition has reacted to the indictment so far:
Trump’s most dangerous rival in the primaries opted for version two: “The instrumentalization of law enforcement agencies poses a deadly threat to a free society. We have seen unequal application of the law based on political affiliation for years,” criticized the Florida governor on Twitter indictment.
“Why so keen on pursuing Trump but so passive on Hillary or Hunter?” DeSantis asked, referring to the president’s son Hunter Biden and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The DeSantis administration will hold the Justice Department accountable, eliminate political bias and end instrumentalization once and for all,” he said if he were elected President.
The former vice president avoided taking sides the day after the indictment news: “I am deeply concerned that these charges will be brought,” Pence told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Yesterday on the tour in Iowa, I said that I was hoping that the Department of Justice would see the way to not go ahead with this. But let me be clear: nobody is above the law.”
“We have to protect our nation’s secrets,” warned Trump’s former deputy. “And I only hope that when we learn the facts of this indictment next week, the American people will see that this case meets the high standard necessary to support the Justice Department’s unprecedented federal indictment of a former President of the United States of the current President of the United States and potential rivals.”
Pence was himself targeted by the Justice Department for his handling of classified information after responders found a small number of sensitive government documents at his Indiana home. However, the ministry acquitted him of any wrongdoing last week.
The former governor of New Jersey has not skimped on criticizing Trump in recent years. After Trump’s accusation posting, however, he was initially reluctant:
“We don’t get our news from Trump’s Truth Social Account. We’ll see what the facts are when any possible charges come out,” Christie tweeted. “As I have said before, nobody is above the law, no matter how much they wish they were. We will have more to say when the facts are uncovered.”
The former Arkansas governor released a lengthy statement urging Trump to “stop campaigning”:
“With the news that Donald Trump has been impeached for a second time, our country finds itself in a situation that is weakening our democracy,” Hutchinson said. “Donald Trump’s actions – from his willful disregard for the Constitution to his disregard for the rule of law – should not define our nation or the Republican Party.
The 72-year-old Trump critic said it was a “sad day” for the United States. “Even though Donald Trump has the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal case will be a major distraction. This underscores the need for Donald Trump to respect his office and complete his campaign.”
The pharmaceutical company spoke not only in writing, but also via video. The youngest candidate for the US presidency, who was only 37 years old, jumped to Trump’s side and made serious allegations against President Biden and the Justice Department, without presenting any evidence:
“We cannot have two levels of justice: one for Trump, another for Biden. One for Assange, another for Manning. One for BLM/Antifa, another for peaceful protesters on January 6th,” Ramaswamy criticized on Twitter In his view, the US judiciary’s inconsistent action against the ex-president, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whistleblower Chelsea Manning, the Black Lives Matter movement and the attackers on the US Capitol.
“I never thought that we would see the day when the US President instructed the Justice Department to arrest his main competitor in the middle of an election,” the multi-millionaire alleged that Biden was influencing the case, without providing any evidence. “Obama shamefully attempted to hire the FBI to infiltrate Trump’s 2016 campaign, Ramaswamy further claimed. “But this time, nothing is being left to chance: the federal police are arresting Trump directly. This is an affront to every citizen: we must not turn into a banana republic where the party in power uses police force to arrest its political opponents. It’s hypocritical for the Justice Department to be selective about Trump and not Biden.”
Ramaswamy said that while it would be much easier for him to win the election if Trump were not in the running, if Trump were elected president he committed to “promptly pardon Trump on January 20, 2025 and enforce the rule of law in to restore our country”.
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The South Carolina senator also backed Trump and attacked Biden and the US judiciary:
“What we have seen in recent years is the use of the Justice Department against a former president,” Scott said in an interview with Fox News. “You don’t have to be a Republican to see injustice and want to fix it. You don’t have to be a Democrat to see injustice and want to fix it. You just have to be an American and stand up for what’s right.”
“Today we are seeing a justice system that is out of balance. That seems to be the result of where we are today,” Scott said. The only black Republican in the United States Senate has announced that if he is elected President, he will eliminate “all unfairness and impurity” in the justice system.
Trump refused to hand over classified information for months
Trump announced on Thursday that the US federal judiciary had indicted him. His attorney Jim Trusty confirmed this a little later. The background to the indictment is the handling of secret documents by the 76-year-old after leaving office. For more than a year after being voted out of office, Trump refused to assist the relevant authorities in obtaining secret documents that were still in his possession. In August, the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, based on a court-approved search warrant. There, the officers discovered around 100 classified information, including some with the highest level of secrecy.
By law, presidents must turn over all official records to the National Archives after the end of their term of office. In addition, there are strict legal requirements for dealing with secret documents, including a law on espionage. US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith, a special investigator, to investigate the affair.
Trump again protested his innocence on Thursday and accused President Biden’s administration of “instrumentalizing” the Justice Department and the US federal police FBI. “They’re after me because we’re now well ahead of Biden in the polls.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.