Senate GOP leaders break with House on Trump indictment

June 13, 2023

Senate Republican leaders, including Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), are staying quiet about former President Donald Trump’s indictment on 37 criminal charges, letting him twist in the wind—and breaking with House Republican leaders who have rushed to Trump’s defense, reports The Hill.

McConnell—who been careful not to comment on Trump or even repeat his name in public—has said to his GOP colleagues that he wants his party to turn the page on the former president, whom he sees as a flawed general election candidate and a drag on Senate Republican candidates.

The Senate GOP leader’s top deputies—Senate Whip John Thune (R-South Dakpta) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas)—also have indicated that they don’t want Trump to win the party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

They, along with McConnell, are letting Trump’s legal troubles unfold without coming to the former president’s defense, in contrast to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), who both issued statements Thursday criticizing the Justice Department before the indictment was unsealed to the public.

“They want him to go away, so they wouldn’t be very upset if this is the thing that finally takes him out,” a former Senate Republican aide said about the Senate Republican leaders’ silence on Trump’s indictment.

Republican senators were more outspoken in defending Trump in April, after liberal Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg unveiled an indictment charging him with 34 felony counts related to business records fraud.

Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, whom Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped in November to investigate Trump, has more credibility among Republicans.

Jack Smith is very credible,” said the former Senate GOP aide.“There is the reflection that he may have actually found finally the silver bullet” to end Trump’s political career, the former aide said, noting that Smith has a tape of Trump acknowledging that he had retained classified documents after leaving office that he didn’t declassify while president.

A Senate Republican aide said the indictment is “pretty damning.”

“The documents that he did have, and who he was showing them to and where he was storing them, is all pretty damning,” the aide said. “I don’t know if it will make a difference in the political landscape, but it certainly seems pretty bad.”

Yet many other Republican senators, particularly those more closely allied with McConnell, are staying conspicuously quiet about Trump’s legal travails.

One GOP senator who requested anonymity defended the Justice Department, pushing back on accusations that because Garland is a Biden appointee, the prosecution is necessarily motivated by politics.

“Where do you draw the line?” the senator said. “Everybody owes their job to someone.

“We have to trust our institutions, and there’s not a lot of trust right now,” the senator added.

Research contact: @thehill