By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump’s rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination have slammed the decision to indict him over his handling of classified documents, pointing to their fear of antagonizing key Trump supporters needed to win the race.
The indictment of a former US president on federal charges is unprecedented in US history, a case made all the more extraordinary by the fact that Trump is the frontrunner in the Republican race to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden the year next.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and U.S. Senator Tim Scott were among presidential candidates on Thursday who accused the Justice Department of political bias after learning that Trump had been indicted by a federal grand jury for keeping documents classified, obstruction of justice and other crimes.
“The militarization of federal law enforcement poses a deadly threat to a free society,” DeSantis, who trails Trump in the polls, wrote on Twitter. “We have seen for years unequal application of the law based on political affiliation.”
Scott, who votes in single digits, also criticized what he called the “militarization” of federal prosecutors.
“Today what we see is a court system where the scales are weighted,” he said in an interview with Fox News.
A spokesman for Special Counsel Jack Smith, the Justice Department official leading the investigation, declined to comment. It is illegal for the government to publicly comment on any sealed grand jury case.
Speaking at a White House press conference ahead of the indictment announcement on Thursday, Biden said the public can be confident the Justice Department is acting fairly and independently, including included in his investigation of Trump.
“I have never, not once, suggested to the Justice Department what it should or shouldn’t do about whether or not to press charges,” Biden said in response to a question from a reporter. journalist.
Vivek Ramaswamy, a venture capitalist with a long campaign for the Republican nomination, released a statement accusing Biden’s Justice Department of unfairly targeting the former president and promising to pardon him if elected.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another longtime contender, was the only rival to outright criticize Trump so far. Arguing that Trump had flouted the Constitution and shown a “lack of respect for the rule of law”, Hutchinson called on him to end his campaign.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who this week lambasted Trump as he announced his own 2024 candidacy, said he wanted to see details of the indictment before weighing in.
“As I’ve said before, no one is above the law even if they want to be,” he said on Twitter.
Overall, however, challengers have come to Trump’s defense, perhaps mindful of how Trump’s indictment in March in New York for an alleged silent payment of money to a star of the porno has only increased its number of polls. Many Republicans viewed the prosecution as politically charged and rallied to his side.
Rivals fear angering Trump’s base, which is believed to make up 30% of the Republican electorate and is largely unwavering in favor of Trump.
But Chuck Coughlin, a longtime consultant for Republicans in Arizona, said he thinks the cumulative effect of criminal charges will start to take its toll.
Trump is under investigation in Georgia for allegedly trying to nullify the 2020 election in the state, and faces a separate federal investigation into his alleged role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. American by his supporters.
If the indictments pile up, Coughlin predicts other Republican candidates will start arguing that Trump can’t win the general election.
“There must be a fatigue factor there,” Coughlin said. “He has to start creating a pause.”
(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lincoln Feast.)