Skip Navigation
Breaking News
The Ticker
Breaking news from Washington and beyond
Illustration by Dave Murray

Trump’s 2024 Rivals Are Too Scared to Criticize Him Post-Indictment

Are they even running against him?

Donald Trump (this photo looks really bad, you can see the outline of his spray tan on his profile, it is very brown/orange compared to his skin color)
SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re running for president, and your opponent gets criminally indicted for using a shell company to buy a porn actress’s silence about an alleged affair he had right after his wife gave birth, you’d probably pounce on that—right? Or, at least, express some neutral statement about the importance of the rule of law? Well, if so, you aren’t running for the 2024 Republican primary nomination!

After the news of Donald Trump’s indictment on Thursday, not a single one of his Republican rivals—announced or rumored—dared criticize the twice-impeached and now formally criminally indicted former president.

Former South Carolina Governor and Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley appeared on Fox to complain that the indictment is just a matter of “revenge” and “political points” rather than justice. “I think the country would be better off talking about things that the American public cares about,” she continued, as if the public does not care about the powerful being held even somewhat accountable for their misdeeds.

Multimillionaire Vivek Ramaswamy, almost immediately after the indictment announcement, released a presumably prerecorded video calling it a “dark moment in American history” and warning that “we may be heading on our way to a national divorce.” Ramaswamy suggested that an alleged criminal being indicted for some reason resembles a “banana republic.”

As far as rumored candidates, the prospects were no better.

Former Vice President Mike Pence—whose life was directly threatened on January 6, 2021, by rioters whipped up by Trump himself—called the indictment an “outrage” and “political prosecution.” When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pushed back, saying that a grand jury of 23 people voted to advance the indictment, Pence dismissed the notion. “Been a long time since I was in law school, Wolf, but I remember the old saying, ‘You can indict a ham sandwich,’ right?”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s toughest competition thus far (despite not having announced yet), peddled an ongoing antisemitic conspiracy that Jewish philanthropist George Soros is directing the entire indictment. He went on to say he would refuse to assist in extraditing Trump to New York, which is unconstitutional. (Given his authoritarian record, it’s unsurprising that DeSantis would be so eager to flout basic principles on justice.)

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed DeSantis’s gross claims, falsely calling Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg a “Soros-funded prosecutor.”

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott called the indictment a “travesty” that “should not be happening in the greatest country on Earth.”

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin said the indictment was delivered “on a manufactured basis.”

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had perhaps the best statement out of the pack, and still it amounted to hedging on all accounts. “While the grand jury found credible facts to support the charges, it is important that the presumption of innocence follows Trump,” he said, adding that Trump’s case ought to be approached in the same way the justice system works “for thousands of Americans every day.” But then he went on to add that though “Donald Trump should not be the next President,” that decision should “be made at the ballot box and not in the court system.”

Hutchinson’s statement represents a broader realization that he and other Republicans are not internalizing: You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t! As things stand now, Trump is leading the primary field. The candidates could continue to refuse to criticize Trump. Or they could decide to not go down in history as embarrassingly submissive, and go on the record saying he simply shouldn’t be president. They are running against him, after all, which means they want him to lose, right? Trump may win the primary anyhow—but by failing to make the case at all, they almost guarantee he will.

For a party that purports to care about the “battleground of ideas,” not a single Republican candidate is trying to make a case for a different path forward—to voters, or really even to themselves.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Calls for Mass Protests Over Trump Indictment

The far-right Georgia congresswoman said she’ll join the protests herself.

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

While twice-impeached former President Donald Trump made history by becoming the first former president to be criminally charged, other parts of history should also be heeded. For example, when Marjorie Taylor Greene calls for mass protests, you ought to take it seriously.

On Friday, the far-right congresswoman announced she will be heading to New York to protest the criminal indictment of Trump, who is said to face more than 30 counts related to business fraud for his role in paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels. Trump is expected to be arrested Tuesday.

Greene’s comments once again dispel the momentary media narrative that she was undergoing some kind of moderate rebrand. Just weeks ago, she had called for a “national divorce.” And now, she is calling for mass protest against the justice system finally potentially holding someone powerful accountable.

Note that while Greene continues to exhibit what has always been clear—that she is a radical not interested in national unity or any semblance of equal justice under the law—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has maintained warm relations with her. McCarthy has said he would “never leave” and “always take care of” Greene.

McCarthy, one of the most powerful Republicans in government who has also condemned Trump’s indictment, has not yet commented on Greene’s call for mass protest. That’s not to be taken lightly.

Manhattan D.A. Slams Top Republicans for Acting Like Trump’s “Criminal Defense Counsel”

In a fiery letter, Alvin Bragg’s office criticized House Republicans for interfering in the investigation leading to Trump’s indictment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg hit back Friday at Republican accusations that the indictment of former President Donald Trump was politically motivated, calling the attacks “baseless and inflammatory.”

Trump became the first former president ever to be criminally charged Thursday when a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict him for his role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Representatives Jim Jordan, Bryan Steil, and James Comer—who chair the House Judiciary, Administration, and Oversight committees, respectively—have alleged Bragg has a political agenda and demanded he testify in Congress about the investigation. They then said that by not responding to them, Bragg had proved their point.

“Your first letter made an unprecedented request to the District Attorney for confidential information about the status of the state grand jury investigation—now indictment—of Mr. Trump,” Bragg said in a letter to the representatives Friday. “Your second letter asserts that, by failing to provide it, the District Attorney somehow failed to dispute your baseless and inflammatory allegations that our investigation is politically motivated. That conclusion is misleading and meritless.”

Bragg informed the congressmen that they did not have the authority “for interfering with individual criminal investigations” and accused them of “acting more like criminal defense counsel trying to gather evidence for a client than a legislative body seeking to achieve a legitimate legislative objective.”

He also said that their investigation had no valid purpose and repeatedly reminded them that they were overstepping the bounds—and power—of their roles.

“We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference,” Bragg said.

Republicans rushed to Trump’s defense after the indictment was announced, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson even appearing to call for violence in response.

But as Bragg pointed out, “Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump is entitled to challenge these charges in court and avail himself of all processes and protections that New York State’s robust criminal procedure affords. What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State.”

Read Bragg’s full letter here.

Justice Department and EPA File Lawsuit Against Norfolk Southern for Polluting East Palestine

The lawsuit seeks to hold the rail company responsible for a disastrous train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Norfolk Southern train
Nick Hagen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern for the “unlawful discharge of pollutants, oil, and hazardous substances,” seeking liability from the company for past and future costs incurred.

“When a Norfolk Southern train derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio, it released toxins into the air, soil, and water, endangering the health and safety of people in surrounding communities,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced on Friday. “With this complaint, the Justice Department and the EPA are acting to pursue justice for the residents of East Palestine and ensure that Norfolk Southern carries the financial burden for the harm it has caused and continues to inflict on the community.”

The Justice Department filed the suit on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, and in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. The lawsuit cites Norfolk Southern’s violations of the Clean Water Act, or CWA, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA.

Ohio filed a federal lawsuit on similar grounds two weeks ago, seeking to ensure the company paid for environmental cleanup and damages and for groundwater and soil monitoring in years to come.

While conservatives have attacked practically every level of government for the response to the East Palestine disaster, it’s worth noting that if Republicans had it their way, there would be less legal basis, like the CWA and CERCLA, for agencies to actually hold corporations accountable. Even since the derailment, Republicans—essentially every single congressional Republican and 24 attorneys general, including Ohio’s—have been working to weaken water protection. The effort, if successful, would implicate waterways similar to the ones polluted in the East Palestine disaster.

In a statement regarding the lawsuit, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said the agency will hold Norfolk Southern “fully accountable.”

“No community should have to go through what East Palestine residents have faced,” he said. “With today’s action, we are once more delivering on our commitment to ensure Norfolk Southern cleans up the mess they made and pays for the damage they have inflicted as we work to ensure this community can feel safe at home again.”

Tucker Carlson Teases an Insurrection over Trump

The Fox News host seemed to be inciting viewers to violence.

Tucker Carlson speaking
Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has privately said he hates Donald Trump “passionately,” called for violence and for people to stockpile AR-15s after the former president was indicted.

Trump became the first former president ever to be criminally charged Thursday when a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict him for his role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Carlson, who has remained a full-throated Trump supporter on air despite knowing full well the man lied about the 2020 election, was livid. He referred to the indictment as a “political purge” during his show Thursday night, all while spreading harmful transphobic conspiracies about the shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.

He then proceeded to appear to call for violence.

“It almost feels like [Democrats are] pushing the population to react,” Carlson said while talking with presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. “At what point do we conclude they’re doing this in order to produce a reaction?”

Carlson also said it was “probably not the best time to give up your AR-15,” a comment that is both dangerous and incredibly tone deaf considering what just happened in Nashville.

His guest at that moment, conservative activist Ned Ryun, had also warned the U.S. was barreling toward “that path to a one-party state and authoritarian government”—which is incredibly ironic considering Republican-led states are already trying to overturn the will of the voters.

Keep in mind that Carlson knows better. Documents released in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News revealed that the network’s hosts and executives never believed any of the conspiracies they spread about the 2020 election.

Carlson had texted someone two days before the January 6 insurrection that “there really isn’t an upside to Trump,” adding, “I hate him passionately.”

And yet Carlson continues to be a glorified spokesperson for Trump and the Republican Party.

Trump Lawyer Says Trump Will Not Be Handcuffed and There’s “Zero” Chance He Takes Plea Deal

Trump lawyer Joe Tapocina’s comments represent a shift in how the former president is approaching his indictment.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s attorney says there is “zero” chance the criminally charged twice-impeached former president will take a plea deal.

Appearing on the Today show Friday morning, Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina insisted “there’s no crime” here, after Trump was indicted Thursday on more than 30 counts related to business fraud for his role in paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Tacopina also said on Good Morning America Friday that Trump will not be put into handcuffs when he arrives in New York and that Secret Service will not let the process turn into a “circus.”

“The president will not be put in handcuffs; as far as a mug shot, perp walk, I am sure they will try to make sure they get some joy out of this by parading him,” Tacopina said, in contrast to Trump’s earlier fantasies about being cuffed in his own self-constructed media spectacle.

Tacopina’s defense was revealing in some aspects. While Trump and allies originally cast doubt on the allegations against the former president, Tacopina’s comments reflect a new shift in what the Trump camp is now running with: Yeah, he might’ve paid Stormy Daniels, but it’s entirely legal.

“It’s still, I believe, all focused around this Stormy Daniels confidentiality settlement agreement, um, completely legal settlement agreement that was made years and years ago,” Tacopina said when asked about the case.

The goalposts, as expected, have shifted as more evidence of Trump’s crimes are revealed. And honestly, that’s worked up until now. But given the history-breaking indictment that’s just been announced, and that there’s still three other ongoing criminal inquiries into Trump, he and his allies might just be running out of juice.

Donald Trump Responds to Indictment News With Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory and a Very Big Typo

Could have written this statement ahead of time, man.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

After becoming the first former president to ever be criminally charged, twice-impeached former President Donald Trump reacted in classic Trump fashion: typos, dramatic capitalization, and antisemitic dog-whistling.

On Truth Social, Trump called America a “THIRD WORLD NATION” and misspelled the word ‘indicted.’

“These Thugs and Radical Left Monsters have just INDICATED the 45th President of the United States of America, and the leading Republican Candidate, by far, for the 2024 Nomination for President,” Trump wrote, slipping on the banana peel of a word he should be aptly familiar with by now.

THIS IS AN ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE. IT IS LIKEWISE A CONTINUING ATTACK ON OUR ONCE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS. THE USA IS NOW A THIRD WORLD NATION, A NATION IN SERIOUS DECLINE. SO SAD!

Despite the humor, it’s not promising for Trump to connect the indictment to “A CONTINUING ATTACK ON OUR ONCE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS,” given the last time Trump whipped up so much anger around a central event, he incited an attack on the Capitol.

In a longer statement, Trump called the indictment “Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.”

Trump went on to falsely describe the Manhattan district attorney as being “hand-picked and funded by George Soros,” peddling an antisemitic conspiracy about wealthy Jewish people influencing society.

Trump (who still faces three other criminal investigations) said he believes the so-called “Witch-Hunt” will “backfire” and mobilize his followers to beat Joe Biden.

While Trump is leading in the polls, he is yet to actually secure the Republican Party nomination; and while some may determine, ex-ante, that an indictment will make him a martyr, it merits saying, plainly: It’s not great for an elected official to be criminally charged! And perhaps it can be left to the Republican primary voters to decide whether that matters to them—there’s no need for the press to prematurely cast predictions and renege on communicating the basic fact that Trump is (still) unfit for office.

“Never before in our Nation’s history has this been done,” Trump complained. Perhaps this unwittingly highlights his especially high propensity to commit crimes—given how unclean the hands of past presidents have been.

Donald Trump and Gwyneth Paltrow Battle for Top News Story

The two stories are obviously very different, but the fact that they’re jockeying for top spot feels very classic America.

ALON SKUY/AFP/Getty Images Rick Bowmer/Pool/Getty Images

On Thursday evening, a wealthy blond American business mogul finally got some justice.

No, not Donald Trump.

Gwyneth Paltrow.

Trump and Paltrow duked it out in the headlines Thursday, each battling for top spot at major news outlets and on Twitter. Both were trending throughout the United States, although Trump had a slight edge.

A jury decided that Paltrow was not responsible for a 2016 ski accident with a retired Utah optometrist, awarding her $1 and legal fees. Terry Sanderson had originally sought more than $3 million from Paltrow, alleging that she crashed into him, leaving him with four broken ribs, a concussion, and lasting brain damage that affected his daily life, including his ability to taste wine. He later dropped the sum to $300,000 but still lost the case.

The Goop founder has made headlines since the start of the trial last week for her outfits and seemingly unbothered demeanor in court.

Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for his role in hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. The charges are still unknown, but he is the first former U.S. president to be criminally charged.

The two stories are obviously vastly different in terms of national importance, but the fact that they are jockeying for top billing feels pretty classic for America. News consumers love a good spectacle—see the many, many jokes made during Trump’s 2016 run, as people failed to realize he was a serious threat—as well as a chance to poke fun at the uberrich. And both these legal cases are perfect situations for both those things.

“Congrats to Donald Trump on Finally Winning a Majority of Votes!”

Here are the best reactions to the criminal indictment of the former president.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

On Thursday evening, Donald Trump became the first former president to ever be criminally charged.

And while Republicans complain of a “banana republic” because an incredibly wealthy and powerful man is facing a slice of consequence for the crooked life he has led so far, most others are responding in a way that reiterates the extremely basic value of holding powerful people to account.

Here is Yusef Abdus Salaam, one of the five exonerated members of the infamous “Central Park Five” group of young boys arrested in 1989 after being falsely connected to a murder in Central Park. Trump spent his own money at the time to take out an ad in four newspapers calling for their death penalty—and refused to apologize for doing so even decades later.

And reminders of what this indictment is really about, beyond jokes, or Republicans lashing out:

Of course, some humor, to be expected on a day that welcomes the revelry reminiscent of Twitter before another incredibly wealthy and powerful man bought it.

Republicans Are Already Losing Their Minds Over the Trump Indictment

“Communist-level shit”

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The news that former President Donald Trump was indicted is still hot off the presses, and Republicans are already freaking out.

A Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump Thursday, making him the first former U.S. leader to be criminally charged. He was investigated for his role in hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, although the specific charges are still unknown.

Republicans are unable to contain themselves.

Representative Jim Jordan was so upset that he could only muster one word: “Outrageous.” Former Representative Madison Cawthorn branded the United States a “Banana Republic.”

Representatives Matt Gaetz and Elise Stefanik both accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of leading a politically motivated “witch hunt,” a favorite term of Trump’s.

Representative Ronny Jackson, who was also Trump’s physician, went on a capital-letter-strewn Twitter tirade in which he insisted that “the hateful Deep State wants this country to BURN. Today they didn’t just indict President Trump, they attacked EVERY ONE of his supporters.”

Representative Andy Biggs said it was a case of “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” and accused the judicial system of overreach. Donald Trump Jr. called the indictment “Communist-level shit.”

Failed Republican candidates Kari Lake and Bo Hines urged people to continue supporting Donald Trump and put on as strong a show as they did last week in New York.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy put out a prepared video statement in which he warned the indictment “will undermine public trust in our electoral system & justice system.”

Thursday’s indictment is expected to be just the first of several charges against Trump, who is at the center of other criminal investigations, including efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and his handling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.