Trump Indictment ‘Totally Erroneous,’ Sets ‘Bad Precedent’ for the Nation: GOP Leaders
Trump Indictment ‘Totally Erroneous,’ Sets ‘Bad Precedent’ for the Nation: GOP Leaders

By Samantha Flom and Steve Lance

Days after former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to falsification of business records charges, his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury continues to spark outrage and concern among Republican leaders—with some holding that it could open the door to rampant prosecutorial misconduct.

“Now the threat is that this occurs not only in this instance but occurs to any other Republican or Democrat,” Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann warned in an April 5 interview with NTD News, The Epoch Times’ sister outlet.

“This is a bad precedent for the country, and I’m real hopeful that it’ll be dismissed by the judiciary at an early level,” he added.

The indictment, which was unsealed on April 4 following the former president’s arraignment, revealed 34 felony counts relating to an alleged hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election cycle.

Hosemann, who used to draft nondisclosure agreements as an attorney, noted that the practice is “very legal” and that he thought the charges against Trump were “totally erroneous.”

Stormy Daniels at Linwood Dunn Theater in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 11, 2022. (Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

“I think it’s a political event, and not something that we should either be supporting or proud of in our country,” the lieutenant governor said.

“I think it’s unified our party a lot by seeing how egregious the step was.”

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, another Republican, shared Hosemann’s concerns regarding the repercussions of what he considered to be a politically motivated attack on Trump.

“Whenever you weaponize or do things for political reasons, whatever it is, it sets a bad precedent,” he said, noting that he had worked with many Democrats over the years to get things done.

“This political punishment has got to stop in our country,” he added. “We’ve got to come together and work at fixing our problems, and we’ll never do it as long as we weaponize the court systems or anything for political payback or punishment.”

Also noting that there did not seem to be much substance to the charges against Trump, Nungesser described the indictment as “unfortunate” and harmful to the nation.

Legal Foundation

Prior to the unsealing of the indictment, leaks to the press revealed that Trump would be facing more than 30 felony counts of falsification of business records.

Upon the full indictment’s release, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg asserted that Trump had “lied again and again” to circumvent the law.

“Under New York state law, it is a felony to falsify business records with intent to defraud and an intent to conceal another crime,” Bragg said at a press conference.

“That is exactly what this case is about—34 false statements made to cover up other crimes.

“These are felony crimes in New York state, no matter who you are,” he added. “We cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct.”

However, when the full indictment was unveiled, even critics of the former president said that the legal foundation for the case appeared weak.

“Speaking as someone who very strongly does not want Donald Trump to get the Republican presidential nomination, I’m extraordinarily distressed by this document,” Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton told CNN.

“I think this is even weaker than I feared it would be.”

The Yale Law School graduate, whom Trump fired in 2019, said he worried the case could “easily” be dismissed before it goes to trial.

Notably absent from the indictment was the basis for elevating the falsification of business records charges—a misdemeanor under New York law—to the felony level.

“What is the legal theory that ties that very solid misdemeanor case, 34 counts of misdemeanors, to the intent to conceal another crime, which is what makes it a felony? It simply isn’t there,” former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe held in another CNN interview.

McCabe led the FBI’s investigation into false allegations Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election.

“At the end of the day, if all of our legal friends read this indictment and don’t see a way to a felony, it’s hard to imagine convincing a jury that they should get there,” he added.

Political Motivations

According to an April 2 ABC News/Ipsos poll, a plurality of Americans (47 percent)—including 79 percent of Republicans—believe the charges against Trump to be politically motivated.

“When you think about it, they’re trying to suppress the momentum that President Trump already has,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) contended in an interview with Steve Bannon’s “War Room.”

“And, more than just the momentum that President Trump has, they’re trying to distract us from the lack of momentum, or the slide, in the Biden camp.”

But if the goal was to keep Trump out of the White House, the case would appear to be having the opposite effect.

Since his indictment last week, Trump’s popularity has skyrocketed among Republicans, spurring him to a massive 37-point lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the GOP presidential nomination, according to an April 7 Reuters/Ipsos poll—an eight-point jump in just three days.

Meanwhile, in a one-on-one rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden, likely voters would choose Trump 47-40 percent, according to an April 5 Rasmussen Reports survey.

On Feb. 15, Rasmussen showed Biden narrowly leading Trump 45-42 percent.

Addressing supporters from his Mar-a-Lago estate on April 4, Trump maintained his innocence of the charges against him and asserted that, under the current leadership, the United States had become “a mess” that only he could effectively clean up.

“Incredibly, we are now a failing nation,” he said. “We are a nation in decline, and now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement. We can’t let that happen.

“With all of this being said, and with a very dark cloud over our beloved country, I have no doubt nevertheless that we will Make America Great Again.”

Jack Phillips, Nathan Worcester, and John Haughey contributed to this report.

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