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Republicans were quick to react to the indictment of former President Trump

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

The big news this morning is that Donald Trump is being indicted on federal charges related to the trove of classified documents taken from the White House to his Florida estate. A number of Republicans have been quick to react to the indictment of the former president. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy jumped to his defense, calling it a, quote, "grave injustice." But some key Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have been noticeably silent thus far. So the key question here is how will the broader GOP deal with the fact that its 2024 front-runner is facing federal charges? To help us unpack that question, we are joined now by conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg.

Good morning.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Good morning.

KHALID: So let's start with your own reaction to the indictment.

GOLDBERG: Surprised, but not shocked.

KHALID: OK.

GOLDBERG: I mean, the timing was such as it was, and you kind of knew that something was coming. But it sounds like it's a pretty serious set of indictments. But we don't know exactly what's in them yet.

KHALID: OK. So Trump is now the first former president in U.S. history to face federal charges. He is also, though, running for reelection. So what does this all mean for that election campaign?

GOLDBERG: Well, it means everything's going to be uglier and stupider for a little while. You already saw that. You know, sort of the canary in the coal mine of American political dysfunction is, of course, Twitter. And so you saw that last night with an enormous number of people getting way ahead of the facts, you know, as Kevin McCarthy did. And, you know, the only two Republican presidential candidates to actually take a different tack, other than this is a political, you know, witch hunt and all that nonsense, were Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, which I think is at minimum a good sign - right? - I mean, 'cause what you need is you need some oxygen out there to actually have an argument. And if the entire GOP rallies around this idea that this is a political prosecution against the - his leading - Biden's leading political opponent, it leaves no room for any Republican to have to defend their position, to have an argument, to deal with uncomfortable facts in internal conversations on the right. And so I'm all in favor of anything that smashes up that sort of intellectual or ideological monopoly.

KHALID: Jonah, I want to ask you a little bit more about what the indictment means for Trump's Republican primary challengers, you know, specifically Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He seemed to be Trump's biggest rival for the GOP presidential nomination. He put out a tweet decrying what he called the, quote, "weaponization of federal law enforcement."

GOLDBERG: Yeah. So I think it's very interesting. We have three different major Republican candidates running who are critical of Trump. One is Chris Christie, who's going all in. Trump the man, Trump the legend, everything about Trump, Trump's family - all is fair game for Chris Christie. Mike Pence says that the administration that he worked in - he just won't call it the Trump administration...

KHALID: Though he...

GOLDBERG: ...Was super...

KHALID: ...Was vice president.

GOLDBERG: ...Terrific...

KHALID: Yeah.

GOLDBERG: ...Awesome. Right - which he was vice president of. His administration was great, but January 6 was very, very bad. That's Mike Pence's position. And Ron DeSantis is going after the administration, but not the man. He's saying that the - that Trump's record fell short on what he promised. And DeSantis can deliver the things that Trump only promised - a wall, immigration stuff, all that kind of thing.

And so the different strategies have to do with the fact that they're going after different voters. DeSantis wants to get about half of the coalition that is in favor of - that is - likes Trump - is not the die-hards. They're the ones who are like, they rally to him when the press picks on him. They rally to him, you know, after the Mar-a-Lago search. But they're not that hardcore, shoot-him-on-Fifth-Avenue base. And that's the question, is, how many of those voters can these guys pick off during a rally-around-Trump moment?

KHALID: Do you have any sense real quick in about just 10 seconds or so if, you know, any of this will make a difference thus far, legal-troubles-wise?

GOLDBERG: I think long term it makes a difference, but it really depends on what the actual facts and allegations are in the indictments.

KHALID: All right. That's conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg. He's editor in chief of The Dispatch.

Thanks so much.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.