Speaker Mike Johnson appeared outside the courthouse to criticize Trump’s felony trial.

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Speaker Mike Johnson appeared outside the courthouse to criticize Trump’s felony trial. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson assailed the hush money case against Donald Trump Tuesday as an illegitimate “sham,” becoming the highest-ranking Republican to show up at court, embrace the former president’s claims of political persecution, and attack the U.S. system of justice.

It was a remarkable moment in modern American politics: The House speaker amplified Trump’s defense and turned the Republican Party against the federal and state legal systems that are foundational to the U.S. government and a cornerstone of democracy.

Johnson, second in line for the presidency, called the court system “corrupt.”

He decried “this ridiculous prosecution outside the New York courthouse that is not about justice.” He said, “It’s all about politics.”

The speaker leads a growing list of Republican lawmakers criticizing the American judicial system as they rally to Trump’s side, appearing at the courthouse to defend the party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Trump is accused of having arranged secret payments to a porn actress to hide negative stories during his successful 2016 campaign for president.

Johnson and the congressmen are criticizing the proceedings, which are currently in the fourth week of witness evidence. Due to a judge’s gag order, Trump is stranded in court and cannot criticize witnesses or specific aspects of the case. As they attempt to get the former president back in the White House, they use the trial as a de facto campaign stop. 

Speaker Mike Johnson appeared outside the courthouse
Speaker Mike Johnson appeared outside the courthouse

By depicting the Trump case as politically driven, the Republicans are also preparing the scene for prospective challenges to the fall election, a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden, and to downplay its relevance should the jury find in favor of the prosecution.

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Before the Jan. 6, 2021, mob assault on the U.S. Capitol, Johnson was a key architect of Trump’s efforts to contest the results of the 2020 presidential election. This past week, Johnson referred to the hush money trial and the other election-year proceedings against Trump as a “borderline criminal conspiracy.” 

It is election interference,” Johnson said Tuesday, insisting he was appearing on his own to back Trump, whom he called a friend. “And the American people are not going to let this stand.”

Unlike other Republicans who showed up to show their support, Johnson did not enter the courtroom where Trump is on trial. Following his remarks to reporters, he left the scene and dashed back to Washington to open the House chamber for the day.

Trump was also accompanied by U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, both of whom are being considered as potential vice presidential candidates. Their presence, along with former GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, one of Trump’s current top surrogates, added a layer of political intrigue to the proceedings.

U.S. Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were among those who attended court on Monday.

Trump’s campaign has recently lined up allies to appear at the New York courthouse to attack witnesses and others whom a judge’s gag order bars Trump from criticizing himself.

Over the weekend, Scott stated on Fox News, “The Democrats are using the court system to go after and prosecute, criminally, a political opponent—that’s a crime.” “They’re just thugs attempting to prevent Trump from participating in the presidential election.”

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In the near term, Trump and his allies have been able to spread their message more widely without running the risk of another clear breach of the gag order because of the Republicans’ attendance in the courthouse and remarks critical of the proceedings. Trump’s legal team contested the gag order as unconstitutional, but on Tuesday, an appeals court maintained it.

Johnson pointedly questioned Cohen’s integrity as Michael Cohen, the former president’s attorney and fixer, started his second day of testifying in the hush money trial. And additional people.

Lead prosecutor Matthew Colangelo “recently received over $10,000 in payments from the Democratic National Committee,” he said, criticizing Cohen as “a man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge.” He also claimed that Judge Juan M. Merchant’s daughter had made “millions of dollars” through Democratic online fundraising. 

Colangelo, who joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in 2022 and previously worked in the U.S. Justice Department in the Biden administration, did paid “political consulting” work for the DNC in 2018, according to federal campaign finance records.

The Republican speaker, who is wholly dependent on support from Trump to keep the gavel, has aimed to strengthen their alliance, particularly as Johnson has come under fire from his own caucus in the House, including a failed effort at his removal by a fellow Trump backer, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Last month, Johnson joined the former president at his Mar-a-Lago club to announce new House legislation requiring citizenship verification before casting a ballot. This move is consistent with Trump’s unfounded accusations that Democrats are encouraging undocumented immigrants to enter the country illegally to influence elections, and it could open up new avenues for Republican challenges in the 2024 presidential election.

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There is no evidence that noncitizens already vote in substantial numbers in federal elections or that they ever will.

At the Republican National Committee’s dinner at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, Johnson went on stage with Trump to praise the presumed presidential nominee. She also stated that House Republicans fully anticipate riding Trump’s coattails to their reelections to maintain the majority in the chamber.

Johnson has been slamming the American legal system from the speaker’s office in Washington, D.C., alleging that the case is politically motivated by Democrats, calling the courts biased against the former president, and maintaining that Trump has done nothing wrong.

When questioned about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, the speaker wavered, and Johnson and other Republicans hedged when asked if they would accept the results of the 2024 election—a break from the custom of faith and loyalty in American electoral systems. 

Source: AP News