Republicans Say Trump's Attempts To Undo An Election Should Be Litigated In Another Election

GOP lawmakers want the cases against Trump "decided at the ballot box," not in court. Democrats essentially did that in 2020, and he still refused to concede.

Republicans rushed to Donald Trump’s defense after he was indicted for a fourth time in as many months, alleging that politics motivated the criminal charges he faces for seeking to undo Georgia’s 2020 election results.

If Democrats want to get rid of Trump, top GOP lawmakers argued this week, they should focus on defeating him in next year’s presidential election instead.

“This should be decided at the ballot box and not in a bunch of liberal jurisdictions trying to put the man in jail,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a Fox News interview Monday. “They’re weaponizing the law.”

“If you disagree with Donald Trump, campaign against him. That’s called democracy,” added Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a separate appearance on the cable network. “But Democrats don’t believe in democracy, because they’re worried voters don’t want four more years of the disaster that is Joe Biden.”

Democrats did campaign against Trump in the November 2020 presidential election, which Biden won. But Trump refused to concede, even after courts rejected his legal challenges. He then sought to remain in power and block the winner from taking office by falsely claiming fraud. Trump’s allies sent fake elector certificates to Congress, and his various efforts culminated in the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Republican senators like Graham and Cruz went along with it. Graham phoned Georgia’s top election official about supposed voting irregularities. And Cruz led the effort to toss out electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, which Biden won — a move that would have disenfranchised millions of voters based on bogus claims of fraud.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), one of the House Democrats who in 2021 tried Trump’s second impeachment in the U.S. Senate, ridiculed the idea that the justice system should step aside while Trump runs for office.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you could never prosecute anyone for trying to overthrow an election that they lost because then they can keep trying to overthrow elections,” Raskin told HuffPost in an interview Tuesday. “Didn’t Ted Cruz go to Harvard Law School? Gee, you would have thought he would have had a little more faith in the American justice system than that.”

Raskin noted that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution bars from office anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States. Even some conservative legal scholars have concluded that the language disqualifies Trump from holding office, though their scholarship has obviously had no effect on Trump’s 2024 campaign.

For Democrats, the matter of holding Trump and his allies to account isn’t simply a way to ensure justice is done. It’s also about restoring the public’s faith in democracy, which has been tested in recent years like no other time in modern American history.

“We fully intend to beat the former president at the ballot box but this is about accountability, giving the people who show up to vote confidence that their will be counted,” Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) said Tuesday on a press call organized by the nonprofit Public Citizen.

“This is about giving them the confidence that when they vote, they will be heard,” she added.

Trump’s Georgia case centers on his unprecedented efforts to overturn an election that he squarely lost. There is little evidence to suggest that Trump would ever accept losing — whether it be a general campaign against Biden in 2024 or even earlier in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, which he is currently leading by a wide margin.

Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he has one play: baselessly allege fraud. He began laying the groundwork for doing so on the campaign trail months before November 2020. According to the indictment in Georgia, Trump discussed a draft speech that falsely declared victory and falsely claimed voter fraud four days before the actual election.

The latest GOP argument against prosecuting Trump in court is especially head-turning given what some Republicans said after voting not to convict during his second Senate impeachment trial: that holding Trump to account should be a legal matter, and not a political one.

“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at the time. “He didn’t get away with anything. Yet.”

But now that two grand juries — in Georgia and in Washington, D.C. — have returned indictments against Trump relating to the 2020 presidential election, his Republican allies are grasping for reasons not to prosecute. These include seeking a change of trial venue and even suggesting immunity for former presidents in local jurisdictions.

“Are we going to let county prosecutors start prosecuting the … former president of the United States? You open up Pandora’s box to the presidency,” Graham said on Fox News. “This whole exercise of allowing a county prosecutor to go after former president of the United States will do a lot of damage to the presidency itself over time. To my Democratic friends, be careful what you wish for.”

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