May 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans "curry favor" with Trump trial visits

Several House Republicans, including Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, Andy Ogles, Matt Gaetz and Michael Cloud, stand behind Trump and his attorney Todd Blanche  at Manhattan criminal court.

Several House Republicans, including Reps. Anna Paulina Luna, Andy Ogles, Matt Gaetz and Michael Cloud, stand behind Trump and his attorney Todd Blanche at Manhattan criminal court on May 16. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Nearly a dozen House Republicans flocked to former President Trump's criminal trial in New York City on Thursday, the largest attendance yet by GOP lawmakers.

Why it matters: The trial is rapidly becoming the essential Trump loyalty test for Republican members of Congress to the point where it appears to have actively interfered with official business.

  • Several of the Republicans sit on the House Oversight Committee, which rescheduled a planned markup from 11am on Thursday to 8pm.

State of play: Among the attendees on Thursday were Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.)

  • Republicans took to the cameras after the hearing to slam the proceedings, with Gaetz blasting the judge in the case and the prosecution's star witness Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer.
  • Gaetz called Trump's hush money-related charges "a made-up crime."
  • The former president faces 34 counts of falsifying business records.

What we're hearing: One House Republican told Axios their colleagues "genuinely think this is a farce" but acknowledged they also "want to curry favor with Trump."

  • Many attendees are likely trying to preserve their political standing back home or position for a posting in the second Trump administration, the lawmaker said.
  • A second GOP member referred to the trial as "The Apprentice 2024," with another, moderate GOP lawmaker quipping, "Better them than me."
  • One source pointed to both Good and his primary opponent John McGuire making an appearance on Thursday as an example of politicians seeing it as an opportunity to gain favor with the former president as they battle for their seats.

Zoom out: These were not the first prominent Republicans to make the trek up to New York to show their loyalty for Trump.

  • Most notably, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) went on Tuesday, saying Trump "is a friend and I wanted to be here to support him."
  • Several prospective Trump running mates have gone, including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Vivek Ramaswamy and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Axios' Erin Doherty previously reported.
  • So have Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), and the attorneys general of Texas, Alabama and Iowa.

Zoom in: Johnson's attendance was poorly received by his Democratic colleagues, who just a week earlier voted to save him from a right-wing ouster attempt.

  • "I think he should be ashamed that he would, himself, stand in front of a courthouse and attempt to undermine the proceedings — let alone lead a group of people to do the same thing," said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).
  • Some Democrats have warned Johnson's embrace of Trump could factor into possible future votes to oust him.
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