Former President Trump racked up two more indictments while Congress was out on recess, spurring conservative outrage. When the House returns to Washington this month, Trump’s staunchest allies will have the opportunity to use their positions to go to bat for him.
Through the appropriations process, investigations and redirecting attention to a potential impeachment inquiry of President Biden, Trump supporters are already planning to use plenty of tools at their disposal to try to help the former president push back on the charges — if not in a legal sense, then in the court of public opinion.
“I am absolutely eyeing ways to push back on the indictments, especially when they’re being weaponized for political purposes,” Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) said.
Even Republicans who do not explicitly say they want to defend Trump through the congressional process point to their desire to address what they call the “weaponization” of the federal government, proposing steps or taking actions that have the effect of playing defense for Trump.
Power of the purse
A top tactic of House Republicans is to use the government funding process to strip federal dollars from those prosecutions — or from the prosecutors pursuing them.
“The power of the purse is the most formidable tool that Congress has to combat the weaponization of our justice system,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said. “Given the Left’s egregious election interference efforts, it’s essential that we effectively use this power to protect the integrity of our elections, restore Americans’ faith in our government, and dismantle our nation’s two-tiered system of justice.”
Clyde, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced last week that he would propose two amendments to the appropriations bill dealing with the Department of Justice that would “prohibit the use of federal funding for the prosecution of any major presidential candidate prior to the upcoming presidential election on November 5th, 2024.”
With that, Clyde takes aim at special counsel Jack Smith, who has led charges against Trump relating to attempts to overturn the 2020 election results and retention of classified documents; Manhattan, N.Y., District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who charged Trump in relation to 2016 hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels; and Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis, who charged Trump again in relation to the 2020 election.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has also said she would introduce an amendment to defund Smith’s office, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in July introduced a bill to do so. Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) earlier this month introduced a bill to defund Smith’s federal salary.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is sure to reject any effort to defund the prosecutions. And it might not be so easy to get House GOP votes to approve them, either; another Clyde amendment to rescind funding for a new FBI building failed in committee.
But Clyde says he is approaching these amendments “quite differently.”
“I’ve had numerous positive conversations about my efforts with members across our Conference, and I will continue discussing my amendments with my colleagues to ensure we’re successful in adding these measures to the base bill,” Clyde said. “Addressing the weaponization and politicization of our judicial system should be a top priority for all House Republicans, which is why I’m confident that we can garner enough support to get this done for the American people and the future of our Republic.”
Building on the House GOP’s focus on combating the alleged “weaponization” of the justice system, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has taken numerous actions poking at the Trump investigations and indictments — actions that are sure to continue.
Most recently, Jordan sent letters seeking information on White House meetings that included a top attorney in special counsel Jack Smith’s probe, fanning impartiality concerns about the Trump prosecution. A source with direct knowledge of the meetings told The Hill that the attorney went to the White House for meetings that were related to national security and to interview a career White House employee who worked there during the Trump administration.
The Judiciary Committee’s probes are not limited to the federal indictments. In August, Jordan asked Willis to turn over all records relating to Trump’s indictment in Georgia. Jordan has also sought testimony from Bragg.
Trump has urged House Republicans to impeach Biden as political revenge for the indictments and his own two impeachment.
“These lowlifes Impeached me TWICE (I WON!), and Indicted me FOUR TIMES – For NOTHING! Either IMPEACH the BUM, or fade into OBLIVION. THEY DID IT TO US!” Trump said in a recent post on his Truth Social website.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has repeatedly said that he would not pursue impeachment for political purposes. But when he or other Republicans are asked about Trump’s indictments, they almost always divert the conversation to the investigations of Biden’s family business dealings that the Speaker thinks will evolve into an impeachment inquiry as a “natural step forward.”
The White House has said that Biden was not involved in his family’s business dealings, and Republicans have not shown that Biden directly benefited from those business dealings while he was vice president or made policy decisions based on his family’s businesses.
Republicans have claimed that action in Trump’s indictments is timed to distract from their investigations of Biden.
Mills, for example, pointed to action in the Trump indictments that followed soon after release of information in the Biden investigations, such as an unverified FBI source interview that described an alleged bribery scheme, and a transcribed interview with former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer.
“Why is it always one day after that’s uncovered, they try to indict the president and their top political opponent?” Mills said.
Republicans have also aimed to symbolically defend Trump by introducing bills to expunge his two impeachments, with House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) introducing one to erase his second impeachment and Greene leading one to erase the first.
Those resolutions were met with skepticism from some Republicans, who said that there is not a real way to erase an impeachment from a past Congress. McCarthy said in June that he supported those expungements, though it is unclear when those bills could move forward.
Trump, though, has not forgotten McCarthy’s stance, sharing a story about his support for the expungements on Truth Social and through his campaign in August.
Mychael Schnell contributed.