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Some ‘Biden district’ Republicans hedge on Trump indictment

New Yorkers focus on prosecutor and crime, not ex-president

Rep. Marc Molinaro, a Republican from a New York district that backed Joe Biden in 2020, criticized the prosecutor who indicted former President Donald Trump while noting no one was above the law.
Rep. Marc Molinaro, a Republican from a New York district that backed Joe Biden in 2020, criticized the prosecutor who indicted former President Donald Trump while noting no one was above the law. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The indictment of former President Donald Trump drew an array of reactions from lawmakers in battleground districts: Some lashed out at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, some expressed confidence in the legal process and some simply kept quiet.

Like some of their other House GOP colleagues, Republicans representing New York battleground districts accused Bragg of politicizing his approach to the job for seeking a grand jury indictment of Trump rather than fighting other crime in New York City. 

Trump was under investigation for his role in paying hush money to a porn star ahead of his 2016 election and is reportedly set to be arraigned on Tuesday. The indictment remains sealed.

Perhaps the location of Trump’s legal challenge prompted more New Yorkers to weigh in on the indictment than their similarly vulnerable GOP colleagues from other states. Just a handful of other House Republicans from districts that Trump would have lost in 2020 appeared to have publicly acknowledged the indictment by Friday afternoon.

How vulnerable Republicans respond is likely to be different than their colleagues who represent safe seats, many of whom loudly condemned the indictment on Thursday. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Trump ally, said she would be in New York on Tuesday and told the city to “put your MAGA hats on” in protest. 

Greene and other members of the House Freedom Caucus were among the most vigorous Trump defenders. They view the indictment as “an outrageous and unprecedented escalation in the radical left’s war on their political enemies.”

Seven New York Republicans were elected for the first time last year, all but one from districts that would have voted for Joe Biden over Trump in 2020. Of the 23 House members representing districts that voted for the other party’s presidential nominee — five Democrats and 18 Republicans — the New York Republicans in “Biden districts” were among the most outspoken. They criticized Bragg for playing politics and rather than focusing on crime in New York, an issue that was an effective issue for them in the state last cycle.  

“With crime in New York City at record highs & the public safety situation rapidly deteriorating, DA Alvin Bragg chooses to focus his energy on playing politics instead of taking violent criminals off the streets,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, who won 4-point victory in a Long Island seat that Biden won by 15 points, tweeted. “Bragg is a hack & should be ashamed.”

Rep. Marc Molinaro said that Trump is, like others, entitled to a fair trial. But Molinaro said that Bragg was allowing “progressive politics and publicity to dictate prosecutions.” Molinaro won by 2 points last year, while Biden would have won the 19th District by 5 points in 2020. 

“We can let the justice system run its course while acknowledging that this case will be a complete political circus,” he said on Twitter. “Alvin Bragg is an elected activist prosecutor who has allowed violent criminals to avoid prosecution — demoralizing law enforcement and endangering ordinary New Yorkers.” 

Democrats had already signaled they are looking to New York in an effort to win back control of the House next year. House Majority PAC, a super PAC with ties to House Democratic leadership, has said it plans to invest $45 million in the state, including opening a war room focused on six districts there that are held by the GOP but won by Biden 2020. 

California is home to five other Republicans in “Biden districts,” and a day after the indictment news broke, most of them had not issued public statements about it. 

But Rep. Mike Garcia, who represents California’s 27th District, made his criticism of the case against Trump clear on Twitter. “You bring me the man, I’ll find you the crime,” Garcia wrote in a tweet posted on his campaign account. 

Garcia has long been close to Trump; he voted against certifying the 2020 election and was endorsed by the former president. Biden would have carried the 27th District, situated just north of Los Angeles, by more than 12 percentage points, although the lines were redrawn following the 2020 U.S. Census to make it less conservative.

‘I trust the system’

Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican moderate from Nebraska who represents a district Trump lost, told CNN he is taking a “wait and see” approach. Unlike some of his colleagues, he did not lash out against Bragg  — his first tweet after the news broke showed him with the son of a Medal of Honor winner who had visited him in the Capitol on Thursday — and expressed faith that the criminal justice system will find the truth.

“I trust the system,” Bacon said. “We have a judge. We have jurors. There [are] appeals. So I think in the end, justice will be done. If he’s guilty it will show up. But if not, I think that will be shown too.”

Democrats from districts that voted for Trump also walk a fine line. Many of their responses were in line with others in their party who said Trump should have a fair shake in the legal system like any other American. 

Alaska Rep. Mary Pelotola, who flipped the state’s only House seat to succeed the late Rep. Don Young, said she would “entrust the legal system to adjudicate this matter,” according to Alaska’s News Source. She said she would continue focusing on work for Alaskans in Congress. 

Several Democrats have focused on calls for Trump to get a fair trial, including Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who is seeking reelection next year in a state where Trump beat Biden by 17 points..

“He believes our criminal justice system must be without political influence, where no one is above the law, and all Americans are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” a spokesperson for  Tester told NBC Montana. 

In northern Maine, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden counseled restraint. “No one is above the law,” Golden said in a Thursday statement, as reported by the Bangor Daily News. “Our legal system is built upon the principle of innocence until proven guilty, and we should let the process play out without bias or political interference.”

Golden represents Maine’s sprawling 2nd District, a largely rural area that Trump won by more than 6 points in 2020.

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