WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans are at loggerheads over whether to support their party’s top presidential candidate, Donald Trump, next year if he is convicted of federal crimes.
While some Republican lawmakers say they couldn’t support a convicted felon for the White House, others are reluctant to close the door. The divisions scramble along ideological lines, with some of the most right-wing Republicans voicing unease about backing Trump after a still-hypothetical conviction after he became the first former president to be federally indicted, while several centrist Republican members- Right say their answers will depend on the circumstances.
Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, one of the most conservative Republicans in the House, said it wouldn’t be right to have a convicted felon as the 2024 Republican nominee.
«No. Honestly, on the surface, it wouldn’t. It doesn’t look good,» Burchett said. «But let’s see what the conviction says. See if he gets convicted.»
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Col., who has criticized right-wing Republican leaders, said a felony conviction would be a deal breaker.
«I certainly will not support a convicted felon for the White House,» Buck said Tuesday on CNN.
Under the US legal system, Trump is presumed innocent until proven guilty. He has pleaded not guilty to all 37 charges related to mishandling classified documents.
Most of the 18 House Republicans representing competitive districts President Joe Biden won in 2020 have remained silent or avoided discussing the charges. The Democrats are trying to use the issue against them politically by portraying the Republican Party that supports Trump as a party that opposes law enforcement.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska, is the exception in that group, saying there is «no way to defend» Trump’s alleged conduct as set out in the indictment.
Other prominent Republicans are keeping their options open, for now, when asked whether a criminal conviction would cost Trump his support in the 2024 general election.
«I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,» said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington Republican, who chairs the powerful Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., a close ally of President Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who helped negotiate the debt limit law with the White House, said a possible felony conviction would «affect» its ability to support a presidential election. candidate, provided that person «went through legitimate due process.»
Graves added: «I’m going to say that again: legitimate due process.»
Behind the scenes, in the silent halls of the Capitol, there is more consternation about the possibility that a convicted criminal could be his party’s presidential candidate.
“I think there are quite a few of my colleagues who would think that if the charges are true, that would be a big deal,” said a House Republican lawmaker who is still reading the indictment and requested anonymity to speak. frankly about the thorny party dynamics involving Trump.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Republican of Alabama, who regularly has access to reams of classified information, is also trying to avoid the problem.
“We will let the courts play and I will decide what to do after that. I’m not going to get involved in this,» Rogers said in an interview. When asked if he was concerned about the allegations underlying the indictment, he replied: «I don’t have a position.»
Most Republicans, including McCarthy and many of his top lawmakers, are attacking the impeachment, saying the outcome of the case would have little impact on their thinking.
Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who endorsed Trump for president, said he will have to wait and «see what happens» before deciding whether a conviction would cause him to withdraw his support.
“It all depends on what really happens. I’m not committed to that, because I’ve seen it in other cases where the courts do something and get it wrong,” Donalds said.
Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, said he has endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president «because I think he gives us our best chance to win in 2024.» But he said that Trump “was an outstanding president; He would enthusiastically support it again,” regardless of a potential conviction, calling the charges a political attack.
“I will support whoever our candidate is. And this is a ridiculous, politically motivated attack on President Trump who is relentless and has been relentless for the last seven or eight years,” Good said.
The charges do not appear to have affected Trump’s strong support within the Republican base, according to a quinnipiac University survey conducted immediately after Trump’s impeachment and released Wednesday, which found Trump leading DeSantis, his closest rival, by 53% to 23% among Republican voters.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, who traveled to New Jersey on Tuesday to attend Trump’s post-arraignment speech, maintains his support for Trump in 2024 and downplays the impeachment. “Everything is political. He understands that. It’s not his first roundup,” Tuberville said, adding that he had dinner with Trump on Tuesday.
“He is disappointed that he was impeached,” said Tuberville, who insisted that Trump is being targeted “for something that everyone else has done” in terms of mishandling classified information.
Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, was reluctant to criticize Trump. Instead, Gonzales, who worked 20 years as a Navy cryptologist on top-secret clearance, said he took issue with the way service members have been prosecuted for mishandling classified material, while several politicians have been released.
“I stack them all together. I lump Trump, Clinton, Biden, Pence, anyone who has mishandled classified material,” Gonzales said. «It sounds like it’s okay if you’re a political figure, but if you’re an average American protecting our nation, which I was for 20 years, it’s a different set of rules.»
Rep. George Santos, RN.Y., who knows what it’s like to be charged by federal prosecutors, remains a staunch supporter of Trump. He was indicted last month on 13 counts, including wire fraud, money laundering and numerous false statements to win congressional elections and enrich himself. But he refused to consider hypothesizing if Trump is convicted.
“Are we going to make hyperbole now? Would, could, should? Ask me a factual question,” Santos said in a brief interview outside the Chamber floor. “I don’t know the future. Do you know the future? I support the president.»
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, who said Trump «got these charges» and is the only Republican senator to vote twice to convict Trump on impeachment charges, said it would be bad if a major political party nominated a convicted felon. for president.
“Obviously, that would be an alarming thing for the world. I think it makes it much more difficult for former President Trump to get re-elected. Winning the primary shouldn’t be hard for him. Winning the overall would be a huge effort, depending, of course, on other circumstances that may unfold,» Romney said. “But there will be people in the middle, so to speak: Republicans who have voted for Donald Trump in the past but are simply too concerned with conduct to have to look the other way and vote for him again.”