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Top Republicans from Wisconsin blast indictment of former President Donald Trump

GOP members of state's congressional delegation call the unprecedented move a 'weaponization' of government

Former President Donald Trump arrives to board his airplane for a trip to a campaign rally in Waco, Texas, at West Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla, Saturday, March 25, 2023
Former President Donald Trump arrives to board his airplane for a trip to a campaign rally in Waco, Texas, at West Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla, Saturday, March 25, 2023. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Republican members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation say the indictment of former President Donald Trump is politically motivated and represents the “weaponization” of government.

The comments came within hours of news that Trump would face criminal charges for alleged ties to a hush money payment to a porn star as he ran for president in 2016.

Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury Thursday afternoon. The indictment remains under seal, so it’s unclear what charges the former president may face. But the jury has been investigating a payment of $130,000 from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with the former president.

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In Dec. 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for the payments, with Judge William H. Pauley III calling the crimes a “vertiable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct.” During sentencing, Cohen apologized in court and said, “I felt it was my duty to cover up his (Trump’s) dirty deeds.”

The grand jury’s decision marks the first time in American history that a former president would face criminal charges.

In a series of tweets, Republicans from Wisconsin blasted the indictment, calling it politically motivated. Some focused on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, either directly or indirectly. Republican U.S. Senator Ron Jonson, Thursday, tweeted that “leftists are destroying America.”

“With all the problems facing our country — many exacerbated by Radical Left governance — now a George Soros funded D.A. issues a political indictment against a former president,” Johnson said.

Republican Congressman Scott Fitzgerald, tweeted that Trump’s indictment “is just the latest of the weaponization of government against conservatives.”

“Radical District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is best known for charging a bodega clerk with murder for defending himself, has largely ignored Congress and abused his office to seek political prosecution of the former President, rather than focus on the rampant violent crimes in his own backyard,” Fitzgerald said.

A tweet Thursday afternoon from Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden echoed the comments about “weaponization” of government by liberals.

“Their blatant abuse of power is destroying our democracy and should be resoundingly condemned by all Americans who care about the rule of law,” Van Orden said.

Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan was the first of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to tweet about the indictment, calling it a sign the nation’s “democracy is strong.”

“No one is above the law, not even a former President,” Pocan said. “That’s a good thing.”

In a statement Thursday, Republican Congressman Bryan Steil also focused on Bragg stating his “unprecedented move … raises many questions.”

“To maintain confidence in our system, it is imperative that our justice system be impartial and that all who come before it are treated equally without regard to politics,” Steil said.

A week earlier on March 20, Steil joined two top Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives in demanding Bragg testify before congress about the investigation and the pending indictment. A letter from Steil, Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer of Kentucky accused brag of preparing to “engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority.”

“This indictment comes after years of your office searching for a basis — any basis — on which to bring charges, ultimately settling on a novel legal theory untested anywhere in the country and one that federal authorities declined to pursue,” the letter said.

In a Friday morning tweet, Republican Congressman Tom Tiffany made similar comments attacking the indictment, calling it “a dangerous effort by the far left” that “should worry every fair-minded American, regardless of political affiliation.”

WPR has reached out to the rest of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation members.

As some Republicans defend Trump and some Democrats celebrate the indictment of the former president, political scientist Mordecai Lee, a professor-emeritus at the University of Milwaukee, told WPR he suspects Trump will use the news to rally his base supporters.

“I think this is not fatal to him,” Lee said. “He’s a survivor. But nonetheless, we have to focus on those few Wisconsinites who are ticket splitters and swing voters. What will they think next week, next month and next year?”

Those ticket splitters in Wisconsin seem nearly extinct, said Lee, with several recent statewide elections decided by around 20,000 and 30,000 votes among millions cast. And since 2010, he said there’s been a transformation in state politics with lawmakers “frozen into their positions.”

“When we look at the kind of social media stuff and statements put out by elected officials from the two parties in the last 24 hours, it really shows us how predictable and locked in the two parties are,” Lee said. “It’s almost like we don’t even need to know what they’re saying because we know what they would say.”