Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.
Donald Trump is expected to face indictment over his handling of classified documents in Florida next week, far from the nation’s capital where the former president presided over a tumultuous White House. But the political repercussions of the trial and legal maneuverings are sure to reverberate on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail. Here are a number of ways:
Trump’s indictment could weigh on GOP recruiting efforts for key House and Senate races. Anyone considering a run in a battleground state will have to be cognizant of the effects that flow from the top of the ticket—and Republicans are still waiting on decisions from some top Senate recruits including Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania and Tim Sheehy in Montana.
Trump is already a wild card, but knowing he could simultaneously be leading the GOP while fighting a legal battle will create even more heartburn for Republicans who would be pressed to answer for the man steering their party. If potential candidates decide it’s not worth it, or that Trump’s legal problems will make the political environment too toxic, it’ll be another example of the former president damaging his party’s hopes in Congress.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle jumped on Trump’s indictment in fundraising appeals. The Senate campaign of Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) dispatched what it called an emergency alert solicitation telling donors: “Trump needs our help!”
The National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Ohio GOP Senate candidate Matt Dolan similarly invoked the indictment, as they seek to fill coffers ahead of this month’s quarterly fundraising deadline.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is vying with other House Democrats in the state’s open Senate race, said in an appeal on Twitter that the indictment “puts our system to a test. Chip in to help me defend our democracy.”
House GOP Unity
Struggling to tamp down dissent in his fractious conference, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) may see an opportunity to bind his party around a common enemy.
GOP hardliners have held up votes because of their anger over McCarthy’s debt limit deal. But with his support of Trump, the speaker can now demonstrate to his right flank that he’s on their side. He called the indictment “a dark day for America.” That’s something even his most ferocious critics on the right would agree with.
House GOP Investigations
GOP plans to investigate the investigators will likely intensify. McCarthy already pledged to hold the Biden administration “accountable” for the federal charges.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) already has questioned the motives of Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg for indicting Trump on states charges related to payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Jordan’s panel and his Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government will likely play a key role again in challenging the latest Trump indictment.
Republicans in the Senate will be back to their least favorite activity: being badgered about the latest Trump scandal.
Most Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), were mum Thursday and Friday. Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), one of the seven Republicans to vote to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, defended the process. “By all appearances, the Justice Department and special counsel have exercised due care,” Romney said in a statement Friday.
One key exception is Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee seeking records from the DOJ and the FBI on a range of politically-charged investigations.
Democratic Tight Rope
Biden’s party is now tasked with being chief defenders of an investigation they also need to cast as politically neutral. Democrats were quick to urge the case against Trump proceed without “interference.”
At the same time, Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, has already pledged Democrats on the panel will probe “the full sweep of Trump’s unlawful possession” of classified documents.
Conservatives may aim to fire FBI Director Chris Wray using the Holman Rule, a newly reinstated process that allows Congress to zero out a specific federal employee’s salary. That’s an uphill task, contingent on both chambers passing government funding bills, which ultimately would need 60 votes in the Senate.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) already called on lawmakers to use the rule to remove Wray from his position in a Wednesday post to Twitter.
Jack Fitzpatrick in Washington also contributed to this story.