Top Republican politicians and prominent conservative media outlets and personalities rallied behind Donald Trump after special counsel Jack Smith announced on Tuesday evening that he was bringing new charges against the former president for his involvement in the violent riot that took place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Read more from Yahoo News: Trump indictment: 3 bombshells from the latest charges undercut his ‘rigged’ election claims
Jack Smith, conservatives’ new nemesis
A war crimes prosecutor who was called back to the United States from The Hague by Attorney General Merrick Garland, Smith has pursued his investigation of Trump methodically and, except for two news conferences, out of the public eye.
In a separate case, Smith charged Trump with 40 counts related to his handling of classified documents that he removed from the White House and stored at his golf clubs in South Florida and New Jersey.
Fox News host Jesse Watters, who took over Tucker Carlson’s coveted primetime slot, opened his show by lashing out at Smith, who he said “looked like a bedraggled nervous wreck, dripping with anger and highly emotional.”
That was relatively mild compared to Trump’s own reaction. His campaign branded Smith “deranged” and compared the charges to the repressions Germans experienced under Adolf Hitler.
Conservatives reacted sharply to Smith’s Tuesday press conference, during which he announced that a Washington, D.C., grand jury had moved to indict Trump for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Those attempts were “fueled by lies,” he said.
“That was one of the most demagogic presentations I have ever seen in a high-profile criminal case,” said Andrew McCarthy, a former prosecutor who now writes for National Review, on Fox News.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., one of Trump’s top supporters in Washington, said that she was moving to impeach Garland.
Read more on Yahoo News: Six Things We Learned From the New Trump Indictment, via the Daily Beast
Were Trump’s lies illegal?
In sum, the four new counts allege that Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden but pursued a “criminal scheme” to overturn the results — an effort that culminated in the attack on the Capitol to try to stop Congress from certifying the vote.
Across conservative media, legal commentators argued that Trump was merely exercising his First Amendment rights by arguing that he had won the election — even if that argument was false.
Smith says as much in the indictment, which acknowledges that Trump “had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he had won.” His crime, Smith argues, was to engage in a conspiracy to subvert the democratic process by spreading “pervasive and destabilizing lies.”
Trump’s supporters claim that even those lies pass constitutional muster. “If you take a red pen to all of the material presumptively protected by the First Amendment, you can reduce much of the indictment to haiku,” wrote Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar at George Washington University, on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.
Read more on Yahoo News: The judge assigned to Trump’s Jan. 6 case is a tough punisher of Capitol rioters, via AP
More charges in New York and Georgia
Aside from the charges filed by Smith, Trump has been charged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for alleged improper payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. And he is almost certain to be charged by Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis for trying to subvert the electoral results in Georgia.
Trump’s defenders paint the prosecutors’ actions as part of a sweeping effort to undermine his 2024 presidential campaign.
“All of it is an attempt to stop President Trump,” Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., said on Newsmax.
Read more on Yahoo News: What happens next in the Trump election interference case? via Reuters
The right sees a double standard
The charges against Trump come a day after Devon Archer, an associate of the president’s troubled son Hunter Biden, told a House committee that Joe Biden — who was vice president to Barack Obama at the time — had joined his son on a number of calls with foreign corporations.
Conservatives questioned why the Department of Justice was not pursuing allegations against the Bidens with the same zeal they have devoted to Trump.
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a leading House Republican, told conservative talk show host Mark Levin that “the Biden family corruption” was “the greatest political scandal in my lifetime.”
Hunter Biden, who has a history of drug use and other questionable behavior, has proved a persistent headache for the president. The recent collapse of a plea deal on federal tax charges has revived the potential of a politically embarrassing trial as his father campaigns for reelection.
Read more on Yahoo News: U.S. attorney leading Hunter Biden probe refutes whistleblowers’ politicization claims, via CNN
A few critics emerge
Not all conservatives were behind Trump. Among the few dissenters was former Vice President Mike Pence, who oversaw the certification of the 2020 presidential race as rioters fueled by Trump’s rhetoric stormed the U.S. Capitol, with some shouting that they wanted to “hang” Pence.
“Today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States,” Pence said in a statement. He is now challenging Trump for the presidency but has failed to gain traction.
Read more on Yahoo News: Trump Indictment Showcases Enron-Era Law’s Use in Jan. 6 Cases, via Bloomberg