The emerging field for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 responded to the indictment of former President Donald Trump by attacking the liberal prosecutor in charge of the investigation while declining to delve into whether the ex-president did something wrong.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch a bid later this year, said he will not cooperate with any extradition request from New York after a grand jury indicted Mr. Trump on charges involving an alleged hush money payment in 2016 to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American,” Mr. DeSantis tweeted, before targeting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and liberal megadonor George Soros. “The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.”
Mr. DeSantis is considered the biggest threat to Mr. Trump, who is leading in polls and holds a tight grip on the Republican base, making his challengers and potential rivals wary of attacking him directly.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has criticized Mr. Trump’s behavior during the U.S. Capitol assault on Jan. 6, 2021, called the indictment an “outrage” and singled out Mr. Bragg even though a grand jury panel voted to indict Mr. Trump.
“When you have an attorney general in New York, a Manhattan DA, that targeted one particular American in their campaigns, I think that offends the notion of the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe in fairness, who believe in equal treatment before the law,” Mr. Pence, who has not said whether he plans to run in 2024, told CNN late Thursday.
SEE ALSO: Trump indicted over hush money; first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who launched her 2024 campaign earlier this year, repeated her belief the indictment is “more about revenge than it is about justice,” while Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a rising star in the GOP, said the courts were being weaponized by the left.
“It is beyond belief that District Attorney Alvin Bragg has indicted a former President and current presidential candidate for pure political gain. Arresting a presidential candidate on a manufactured basis should not happen in America,” he tweeted.
The indictment will begin a legal process that will likely require Mr. Trump to come to New York to face the charges. His first appearance in a New York City courtroom could occur on Tuesday.
The indictment hasn’t been made public, and New York judges usually keep charges under seal until defendants make their initial appearance in court.
The indictment over the alleged hush money payment during his first bid for president will undoubtedly affect his current campaign. Mr. Trump said it will make him more popular.
“They only brought this Fake, Corrupt, and Disgraceful Charge against me because I stand with the American People, and they know that I cannot get a fair trial in New York!” Mr. Trump said on Truth Social, his social media platform. “These Corrupt Democrat Prosecutors, all from poorly run and very dangerous Democrat run cities, are not going to choose the Republican Nominee, or the next President of the United States!”
Democratic leaders were measured in their responses to the indictment late Thursday, saying no one is above the law and urging all sides to be peaceful.
President Biden told reporters he had no comment on the indictment as he left the White House for a trip to Mississippi early Friday.
“I have no comment on Trump,” Mr. Biden said.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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