America now a “3rd world dictatorship”: GOP mirrors Trump tactics — deny, reverse, attack

Former President Donald Trump was charged with 34 counts of felony fraud Tuesday in Manhattan, over the alleged falsification of business records relating to his 2016 hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels (as well as other attempts to suppress news about possible scandals). Trump pleaded not guilty, becoming the first former president to be charged with a crime.

Almost as soon as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg‘s office published the indictment on Tuesday afternoons, Republicans in the House and Senate began releasing statements in lockstep sentiment. Most followed near-identical language, giving the public a blueprint for the GOP’s public relations strategy: Deny, attack and reverse.

Bragg alleges that Trump attempted to interfere in an election by using hush money to keep the public from finding out potentially damaging facts about him during his campaign. Republicans are seeking to reverse that charge, accusing Bragg of interfering with the upcoming presidential election by “politically targeting” Trump.

After that, GOP counterattacks move to accuse Bragg of jurisdictional overreach, threatening the Manhattan D.A.’s office with congressional investigation, although there is little federal legislators can do against state or county prosecutors. 

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., was the first out of the gate with a statement on Trump’s indictment.  

“It’s clear that this is a politically-motivated prosecution against President Trump. The DOJ previously looked at the facts and decided there was no case to pursue,” Tillis said in his statement. 

In fact, Bragg clearly stated in his Tuesday press conference that he now has “additional evidence that was not in the office’s possession prior to my time here.” That includes new witness statements.

Tillis further suggested that members of Congress should use their authority to target Bragg. 

“Congress has every right to demand answers and accountability from the Manhattan D.A.’s office, especially as this directly relates to federal law,” he said in the statement.  

That suggestion was clearly in step with signals from the overwhelmingly pro-Trump House GOP. In a notable moment of irony, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accused Bragg of attempting to manipulate the outcome of an election. 

“Bragg’s weaponization of the federal justice process will be held accountable by Congress,” McCarthy tweeted Tuesday, a pointed reference to the House’s new Government Weaponization Committee.

“Alvin Bragg is attempting to interfere in our democratic process by invoking federal law to bring politicized charges against President Trump, admittedly using federal funds, while at the same time arguing that the peoples’ representatives in Congress lack jurisdiction to investigate this farce,” McCarthy said. 

Given a deadlocked Congress, with Democrats holding a narrow Senate majority, and the chaotic and ineffective nature of the House under McCarthy, the lower chamber’s investigation committees are unlikely to threaten to Bragg’s ability to prosecute the case. Republicans nonetheless lined up metaphorically to issue roll-call statements, attacking Bragg. 

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Punchbowl News’ Max Cohen nabbed quotes from at least three GOP members in a series of tweets from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., who all used near-identical language to accuse Bragg of staging a political prosecution. Malliotakis, who represents portions of Brooklyn and Staten Island — where Trump hopes his trial can he held — called for Bragg’s firing. 

It took a few hours, but the GOP’s official Twitter account finally caught up with the newly issued strategy and aped the language, decrying “political prosecution.” Shortly after that, more Republican members began parroting the phrase in their respective online squawk boxes, including Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Rep. Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee and Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois (who last year praised the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision as a “victory for white life“).

Some, like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — once upon a time a 2016 primary rival of Trump’s — brought the talking points to life in a video monologue. 

“People see this for what it is. It’s political,” Rubio said in a tweeted speech. 

Few tweets had quite the manic fervor of the one posted by Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas, who was the subject of numerous allegations of misconduct and mismanagement in his previous career as White House physician. While Jackson didn’t echo the major GOP talking points, his tweets reached a level of hysteria suggestive of the former president.

“America is very rapidly turning into a 3rd world dictatorship,” Jackson wrote. “Democrats want to arrest & imprison ANYONE who opposes their corrupt regime. It’s not just Trump they’re after. 


Another response that requires a bit of decoding is the tweet from Mercedes Schlapp, a former Trump adviser whose husband, Matt Schlapp, the head of CPAC and chair of the American Conservative Union, was recently accused of sexual assault by a former strategist for Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign. Mercedes Schlapp called the Trump indictment “a wake up call for many Republicans,” suggesting that GOP voters on the fence about Trump in 2024 “are realizing the left has gone too far.”

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