Jun 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Democrats lean into "more serious" Trump indictment

Former President Trump. Photo: Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Democrats are treating former President Trump's reported second indictment, this time by a federal grand jury, with even greater gravity than the first.

Why it matters: The Justice Department's reported charges, over Trump's alleged mishandling of classified documents, are widely seen as the most likely to ensnare the ex-president.

What they're saying: "This is more serious. The Feds, it's always very serious," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a former criminal defense attorney who served on the Intelligence Committee during Trump's first impeachment, told Axios.

  • Quigley argued Trump faces "far greater personal jeopardy with this" than the Manhattan DA's case. "I believe in the presumption of innocence, but the former president is in a world of hurt."
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) referred Axios to a song with the lyrics "that motherf***er's guilty," commenting: "This tune is kinda catchy."
  • Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) tweeted: "Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but we don’t need a judge or jury to determine if his destruction of decency and dangerous incompetence continues to stain America."

Zoom in: Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), a swing district member who said after the Manhattan DA's indictment that lawmakers should "keep our attention on the actual work of leading this country," reacted more directly this time.

  • "The chaos of Trump continues. What he’s doing to this country – the extremism and danger he and his allies present – has to end. Only when those who support and enable him decide to be done with this toxic behavior will this all be behind us," he said in a statement.

Details: The precise nature of the allegations was unclear as of Thursday evening, though CNN and ABC News reported the former president was charged with seven counts.

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland in November appointed Jack Smith, a former prosecutor at the Hague, as special counsel to investigate the documents case and Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Between the lines: Democrats' security concerns in the wake of Jan. 6 still loom large even after the first indictment came and went without incident.

  • Quigley told Axios his first reaction to the news was "what's this going to do to the safety of members ... [and] of the public and of law enforcement?"
  • "It's the right thing to do, but there's danger involved."

What we're watching: After attempting to scrutinize the Manhattan DA's probe, the GOP-led House may once again involve itself in a Trump prosecution.

  • House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan on Tuesday asked the Justice Department for a memo outlining the scope of Smith's probe.
  • And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), reacting to the news on Thursday, tweeted: "House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable."
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