Senate Democrats on Tuesday expressed alarm at former President Trump’s call for protests in response to a potential indictment this week by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
But some also held back as they awaited the possible indictment over a hush money payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to be handed down.
Democrats panned Trump’s immediate response to a potential arrest, harkening back to his call out to his supporters prior to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
“I worry about it in the context of Jan. 6,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill. “We saw what happened when the former president incited violence on Jan. 6, so I worry because of the former president’s past record.”
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “Certainly I worry about President Trump doing things that are irresponsible, but it wouldn’t be the first time.”
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during his daily floor remarks on Tuesday notably stuck to other topics, including the chamber’s series of votes doing away with the Authorization of Military Force for the Iraq War, railway safety legislation and the House Republicans’ H.R. 1 energy bill.
“I’m not commenting on this until we see what actually happens. It’s premature,” Schumer told NBC News when asked about Trump’s call for protests.
However, that has not stopped some other Democrats from going after the ex-president whether he is charged or not. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a longtime adversary of Trump, told reporters that the situation will “further reveal” the former president as a “crook.”
“I’m not on the jury, so I can say that,” Blumenthal said. “The American people have seen through him before.”
Trump is in hot water after his former fixer, Michael Cohen, made a $130,000 payment to Daniels days before the 2016 election and as she was set to publicly claim she had an affair with the former president, which he denies.
The political ramifications if an indictment is indeed handed down remain to be seen as Trump mounts a third presidential bid.
Conservatives and Trump supporters have almost roundly condemned the push as a politically-motivated attack on one of the party’s leading figures for the nomination, and even some moderate Democrats are worried about those optics.
“There’s many reasons not to support Donald Trump. There’s many reasons why Donald Trump should not be president again in the United States. But you should not allow the court system to be perceived as basically a political pawn as you will,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is up for reelection in 2024, told reporters.
“I think it would basically have the reverse effect as some people would think — not for the good,” he added.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, declined to delve into what a Trump indictment could mean politically.
“Let’s wait to see what the indictment is and what the facts are before we start commenting on that,” Peters said.
The nascent effort on the part of House Republicans to train their fire on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), meanwhile, has senators concerned on both sides of the aisle.
Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), the chairmen of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Administration committees, have all called on Bragg to testify to lawmakers.
Jordan also has dismissed the allegations, having compared them to a “bookkeeping error.”
“Going after law enforcement folks who are working to enforce our laws is a very dangerous practice,” Van Hollen said. “This is a moment for all Republicans, all the people…just to let justice take its course. No one’s above the law. Everyone’s entitled to due process. The former president will have due process.”
“This is not a moment for Republicans to be attacking folks in the justice system,” Van Hollen added.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a top ally of Senate GOP leadership, indicated to reporters that House Republicans should sidestep targeting Bragg and instead “stick to the agenda they ran on when they got elected to the majority.”
A number of Republicans also took issue with Trump’s protest push. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told reporters that she didn’t see how they could be “helpful nor beneficial” for the former president.
“Anytime anyone wants to assemble peacefully, that’s fine,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters. “The minute they get violent, they should go to jail.”
Alexander Bolton contributed.