Trump conviction sparks sharply divergent reactions on Capitol Hill

Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records set off a political firestorm in Washington on Thursday, with Republicans furiously lambasting the verdict as a miscarriage of justice while Democrats commended New York jurors for rendering a fair judgment in one of the most historic trials in American history.

Republicans unsurprisingly rallied around Trump, reiterating their baseless allegations that the Biden administration had engaged in political persecution of the former US president.

Related: Donald Trump found guilty of hush-money plot to influence 2016 election

“Today is a shameful day in American history,” said Mike Johnson, the Republican House speaker. “This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one. The weaponization of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden administration, and the decision today is further evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents.”

Congressman Jim Jordan, the pugnacious rightwing Republican chair of the House judiciary committee, similarly bemoaned the verdict as “a travesty of justice”, adding: “The Manhattan kangaroo court shows what happens when our justice system is weaponized by partisan prosecutors in front of a biased judge with an unfair process.”

Some of Trump’s advisers and family members were even more blunt in their assessment of the verdict. “Such bullshit,” Donald Trump Jr, the former president’s eldest son, wrote on X.

A number of Trump’s allies predicted the conviction would be reversed on appeal and would only mobilize Republican voters in the election, while at least one lawmaker suggested the verdict would set a dangerous precedent.

“This verdict says more about the system than the allegations. It will be seen as politically motivated and unfair, and it will backfire tremendously on the political left,” said Republican Senator and close Trump ally Lindsey Graham. “I fear we have opened up Pandora’s box on the presidency itself.”

Meanwhile, Democrats were more muted in their response to the verdict, framing the jurors’ decision as a reflection of the strength of the US justice system.

“In New York today, we saw that no one is above the law. Donald Trump has always mistakenly believed he would never face consequences for breaking the law for his own personal gain,” said Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign communications director.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic chair of the Senate judiciary courts subcommittee, argued the verdict confirmed that Trump was “not fit to lead the greatest nation in the world”.

“It’s only in honest courtrooms that the former president has been unable to lie and bully his way out of trouble,” Whitehouse said. “Americans trust juries for good reason.”

Senator Chris Coons, a Democratic members of the Senate judiciary committee, added: “I commend the jurors for their service and urge all Americans, no matter their party affiliation, to accept and respect the outcome of this trial.”

After dismissing the verdict as a “disgrace,” Trump immediately turned his conviction into a campaign issue, sending a fundraising email to supporters describing himself as a “political prisoner”.

“But with your support at this moment in history, WE WILL WIN BACK THE WHITE HOUSE AND MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” the email read. “WE MUST MAKE JOE BIDEN REGRET EVER COMING AFTER US!”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also issued a fundraising pitch after the jury issued its verdict, attacking the trial as a “witch-hunt”.

Biden himself declined to offer any comment or reaction to the verdict on Thursday; Ian Sams, spokesperson for the White House counsel’s office, said in a statement, “We respect the rule of law, and have no additional comment.”

But Biden’s campaign team made it clear that the president would continue to prosecute his own case against Trump as the country looks ahead to November.

“Today’s verdict does not change the fact that the American people face a simple reality,” Tyler said. “There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.”

Trump issued a rambling statement on Thursday night calling himself a “very innocent man” and describing the trial as “rigged”. He blamed the Biden administration and what he called a “Soros-backed” district attorney for the verdict, a reference to billionaire George Soros who is a common target of right wing conspiracy theories and outrage.

“This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt. It’s a rigged trial, a disgrace,” Trump stated. “This was a rigged, disgraceful trial.”


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