But both New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and former Attorney General Bill Barr said he could be in big political trouble.
“If even half of [the charges are] true, then it’s toast,” said Barr, who was Trump’s last attorney general and at one time one of his fiercest defenders, on ‘Fox News Sunday.’
Sununu, a critic of Trump who recently announced he would not run for the Republican nomination in 2024, made similar comments on CBS’ « Face the Nation, » adding, « It’s self-inflicted. »
The former president broke the news of his indictment Thursday night on social media. The details of the allegations, unveiled on Friday, are the result of a months-long investigation that included an initial FBI search in Mar-a-Lago last August. Trump is expected to appear in court in Florida on Tuesday, but his case was already underway in the court of public opinion on Sunday, with several narratives evolving for partisan and personal reasons.
What no one really wanted to discuss was the substance of the allegations that the former president maintained a huge collection of highly sensitive material – including information on the « defense and weapons capabilities » of the United States and foreign countries – in his Florida property. None of Trump’s prominent defenders on Sunday denied having those files or even suggested that they thought it would be a good idea to have them.
« I don’t like what President Trump has done in certain aspects, » Graham said.
Vivek Ramaswamy, a GOP presidential candidate, said of Trump’s decision, « It’s bad judgment, there’s no doubt about it. » But he has promised to pardon Trump if he gets elected.
Trump’s allies and critics were divided, however, over whether moving to store documents in Mar-a-Lago constituted a crime and whether the decision to prosecute him for possession of that material was politically motivated.
« I would not have brought the documents with me and returned them upon request, because it would have prepared for a much more constructive discussion, » Ramaswamy said on CNN’s « State of the Union. » « But there’s a difference between bad judgment and breaking the law. »
Graham, however, defended the former president – to a point: “Whether you like Trump or not, he did not commit espionage. He has not released, leaked or supplied information to a foreign power or news organization to harm this country. He is not a spy. He is overloaded. Did he do wrong things? Yes, he might have it. »
Many of his supporters have said that Trump is facing a double standard under the law.
“If he wants to store the material in a box in a bathroom, in a box on stage, he can. That’s just what the law and the standard is, » Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said on « State of the Union. »
Jordan called the decision to indict Trump « an affront to consistent law enforcement. »
He and other supporters of the former president have accused the Biden administration of using the Justice Department to bring down Trump, the current frontrunner in the GOP primary race, and said the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute Biden or members of his family for any misdeeds.
« What I’ve heard from the Republicans I’ve talked to is frustration, growing frustration, » Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said on « Fox News Sunday. » “Trust in our Justice Department has also been eroded. These are fundamental institutions in a democracy that must be trusted by the people. When you see things like this that have political overtones, it’s very frustrating for people. »
Rep. Nancy Mace (RS.C.) suggested the indictment was strategically timed to cover up the alleged misdeeds of Biden and those of his son Hunter, a perennial Republican punching bag.
« Every time the Oversight Committee has evidence of bribery, bribery, money laundering on the Biden family, they indict Donald Trump, » Mace said on Fox News’ « Sunday Morning Futures. » “And whether or not you agree with Donald Trump politically, most of America sees him for what he is, as an executive branch weapon to eliminate your political enemies.”
Mace also described the charge as a « death sentence » for the former president.
“Joe Biden wants to sentence Donald Trump to death for documents. He is facing hundreds of years for mishandling records and they want him to die in prison,” host Maria Bartiromo told as Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) nodded in agreement.
Barr, however, was less willing to bring Trump down for what he’s accused of in this case.
“Yes, he was a victim in the past. Yes, his opponents have obsessively hounded him with bogus claims. I have stood by him defending myself from them when he is a victim. But this is very different. He is not a victim here. He was totally wrong to have the right to have those documents. Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets the country has.
Barr also said there was a huge difference between a former president who keeps records for personal use, such as notes taken at meetings, and materials that have been « prepared by government agencies for the purpose of government action, » including military plans.
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, another GOP presidential candidate, noted that Trump is innocent until proven guilty. But the charge « is bad for our country, bad for the presidency, and it’s a legitimate election issue, » he said on CNN’s « State of Union. » « We don’t need our commander-in-chief of this country not protecting our nation’s secrets. »
Democrats, who were mostly absent from Sunday morning shows this week, have largely argued that the evidence that Trump has committed a crime is clear.
« There is no doubt, based on his recorded private conversations, that he did not declassify these documents, » Rep. Dan Goldman (DN.Y.) told CNN, pointing to the descriptions in the indictment document. “Mr. Jordan, Donald Trump and his defense team can try to spin this however they want. But evidence based on the recording of him, his own voice, says otherwise.
Trump himself said he will come out stronger politically from the impeachment and that his fundraising is already going well. On Saturday, he and his team seemed in good spirits. He spoke to a couple of reporters on his plane, both on and off the record. He ordered Jimmy John’s sandwiches for lunch and McDonald’s quarters, chicken nuggets and fries for dinner. He spent part of the drive home in New Jersey blaring songs by, among others, Luciano Pavarotti and James Brown.
He also seemed eager to engage in political combat around his legal troubles. He said he believed Congressional Republicans should have brought Special Counsel Jack Smith before Congress to testify about the decision to impeach him. “They should,” he said. « I think they should. »
Even Hutchinson, who has called on Trump to withdraw from the GOP primaries, acknowledged that the legal battle could be to the leader’s advantage.
“I suspect he will raise money for the prosecution like he has before,” Hutchinson said, referring to a fundraiser the Trump team said it saw earlier this year when he was indicted in New York with several accusations. « And obviously with a lot of Republican leaders saying this is a selective prosecution, and that’s unfair, that there’s a sympathy factor that’s built in. »
This sentiment appears to be supported by a new CBS pollwhich found that Republican primary voters are far more concerned about whether the indictment is politically motivated than whether his actions posed a national security risk.
If convicted, 80% of respondents said he should still be president, and 75% said the allegations have either not changed their view of Trump or changed it for the better. The survey included responses from 2,480 adults interviewed between June 7 and June 10. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.7 points for the overall sample and plus or minus 5.5 points for likely Republican primary voters
A second poll showed stark divisions among Americans. Although nearly half of Americans — 48 percent — think Trump should have been charged in the case, according to an ABC/Ipsos survey On Sunday, 47% of Americans believe the allegations are politically motivated, compared with 37% who do not.
The ABC poll, which polled 910 adults, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points and was conducted June 9-10.