What Trump’s latest accusation tells us about the GOP presidential field

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump had one job: “to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.”

With those words — along with the conditional promise to protect the Constitution “to the best of our ability” — a president’s oath creates a pretty low bar for making a good-faith effort to lead the country in accordance with its laws.

But once he became a lame duck — a defeated president serving out his remaining days before handing over the keys to the White House — Trump did the exact opposite, prosecutors wrote in a four-count indictment Tuesday.

Now, Trump’s Republican rivals are using the moment to reveal more than ever their views on the powers of the presidency and the courts. And they vividly demonstrate that there is an inverse relationship between their willingness to consider the possibility of impeachment legitimacy and their viability in the GOP primaries.

To a Republican base that insists the last presidential election was rigged — and, increasingly, that is the case with every Democratic victory at every political level — leaders in the field are sending a pretty clear message: Trump’s actions were more righteous than they , the legal system.

The sentiment will only embolden the part of the party that believes Republicans should fight until long after the last vote has been counted.

That makes it more likely that January 6 was an early chapter in a larger story, not a conclusion.

“Each of these conspiracies — which built on the widespread distrust the defendants created through elaborate and destabilizing lies about election fraud — targeted a fundamental function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of presidential elections,” wrote the prosecutor’s office in the indictment published on Tuesday.

Trump’s main rival for the GOP nomination focused more on the context of the case Tuesday than on the conduct described by the special counsel’s office.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a former military prosecutor who acknowledged he had not read the indictment, wrote on social media that it is “unfair” for Trump to “have to face a jury that reflects the swamp mentality.”

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution requires that juries be selected in the federal jurisdiction where a crime was allegedly committed. Article III of the Constitution regulates the venues for actual trials.

As a candidate commenting on a criminal charge, the Harvard law graduate DeSantis further wrote that the nation is “in decline” in part because of “the politicization of the rule of law.” He promised to stop “government weaponization”.

In an interview with NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez last week, DeSantis was asked if Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 disqualify him for another term as president. DeSantis dodged.

“So here’s what I think we need to do,” DeSantis said. “We need to focus the election on (President) Joe Biden’s failures and our positive vision for the future. If we’re talking about things from four or five years ago, the Republicans are going to lose.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a Yale Law School graduate ranked third in some national surveys, called the indictment “persecution by prosecution” and concluded, without seeing any evidence, that Trump “did not” commit any crime.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who is getting a closer look from some in the GOP donor class, avoided the construction that Trump is innocent. Rather, he accused the Justice Department of ignoring allegations against the president’s son Hunter Biden while focusing on Trump.

“We see Biden’s DOJ continuing to hunt down Republicans while protecting Democrats,” Scott said.

There were, of course, a handful of GOP candidates who chose not to attack prosecutors or defend Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

“Today’s impeachment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts themselves above the Constitution should never be president of the United States,” said former Vice President Mike Pence, who fled for his life during the Capitol riot. “I will have more to say about the government’s case after reviewing the indictment. The former president is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but with this charge, his candidacy means more talk about January 6 and more distractions.”

Still, Pence is in danger of falling short of the 40,000-donor threshold to qualify for the first Republican presidential debate this month — an outcome that would be a stunning rebuke to someone elected on Trump’s ticket and a cautionary tale for any GOP candidate. who could consider criticizing the former president.

Former Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, reiterated his position that Trump’s entire candidacy is “an attempt to stay out of jail” and get his supporters to pay his legal bills.

“The 2020 election was not stolen, rigged or fraudulent,” Hurd said. “It was lost by Donald Trump because he was unable to unite the country. Now we have to ask ourselves if we really want a president who is willing to violate his oath to the Constitution just to hold on to power?

So far, the answer for a majority of Republican voters is yes.

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