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Republicans Vow To Scorch the Earth After Trump Conviction

May 31, 2024

Spurred by the volcanic temper of their base, Republicans are now preparing to scorch the earth in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s conviction, potentially setting off a chain reaction that could fundamentally alter the American political system entirely.

No one knows exactly how far they will go in their response.

What is clear is that conservatives have no patience for President Biden’s argument Friday morning that justice was served in Manhattan, that “the American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed.” They see the conviction instead as unprecedented “lawfare” meant to interfere with the coming election and, some say, an unprecedented response is now in order.

“The good guys must be as tough as the villains or freedom is doomed,” senior Trump advisor Stephen Miller told RealClearPolitics without offering exact details. Rep. Mike Collins, meanwhile, was explicit. “Time for Red State AGs and DAs to get busy,” the Georgia Republican said Thursday, floating the idea that Republicans should begin using the courts to pursue their political enemies.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign-funded Steele dossier is a good start,” Collins continued, referencing how the former Secretary of State’s presidential campaign misreported their spending on the infamous opposition research document. Clinton was later fined $11,000 by the Federal Election Commission. No criminal charges were brought.

“The statute of limitations expired but I’m told that’s not a thing anymore,” Collins said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are preparing a more traditional counter-offensive, one within established parliamentary rules. Led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee, eight Republicans have vowed to oppose all major legislation “not directly relevant to the safety of the American people” and blockade all judicial nominees in protest of Trump’s conviction.

“We can’t pretend that our political world didn’t change yesterday pretty dramatically and for the worse,” Lee told RCP. The Utah Republican admitted that legislation normally slows ahead of an election but White House efforts to get anything through the Senate “just get a lot harder for them.”

A legislative blockade alone may not satisfy a conservative base hell-bent on retribution.

“I don’t want to hear elected Republicans complaining. I don’t need to see their tweets and statements condemning the verdict. The only thing I want to hear from these people is which Democrats they will have arrested. Don’t tell us that you’re sad about the verdict. We don’t give a shit about your feelings. We want to see corrupt Democrats frog marched on camera in handcuffs. If you won’t do that, then shut up,” Matt Walsh, a Daily Wire columnist with a following in the millions, wrote on the social media website X.

Replied conservative influencer Chaya Raichik: “Exactly. Where’s the list! Here’s a start: Obama Hillary Joe Biden Hunter Biden.”

Mike Davis, a longtime Republican strategist floated as a potential Trump attorney general, told Axios he wants prosecutors in red states like Georgia and Florida to open criminal probes into Democrats for allegedly conspiring to interfere in the election by indicting the former president.

For his part, Lee stopped short of endorsing those efforts. He likened it to some campaigns on the left to pack the Supreme Court, an initiative he has long opposed, warning that it would lead to “lawlessness” and “politicization.”

“I think this is an analogous circumstance,” the senator said of the prosecution of a major presidential candidate, something that the Department of Justice has long avoided. “They’ve broken a seal,” Lee said of the Trump conviction. “I don’t know that it can be contained.”

He held out one remote possibility: If Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team experience a change of heart during the appeals process. “They could confess error on appeal,” Lee said. “Other instances of lawfare, wherever they exist, could be dropped. You could put this genie back in the bottle still, but not for very much longer.”

Trump could potentially temper the rage of the right before Republicans start dragging their Democratic political opponents to court. He has already vowed to appoint a special prosecutor “to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the United States of America, Joe Biden, and the entire Biden crime family.”

Trump famously promised to “lock up” Clinton during the 2016 election, but he quickly abandoned that pledge after winning the election. “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,” Trump told the New York Times. “She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways, and I am not looking to hurt them at all. The campaign was vicious.”

Asked if he was comfortable with the idea of drawing up lists of political enemies to prosecute, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott leaned on scripture, telling CNN that “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. We’ll leave that there.”

“The bottom line is simply this, without question, President Trump has looked me in my eyes and a room full of other folks and said, you know what, the best revenge is success,” continued Scott, a potential Trump VP pick.

Talk of their own lawfare, for now, is just talk. The most immediate, and concrete, consequence of the conviction has been dollars. Republicans have been raking in political donations hand-over-fist, with the Trump campaign announcing a 24-hour fundraising haul of $34.8 million – 29% of which came from first-time Trump donors.

Asked if he was worried about being prosecuted after leaving the White House now that some on the right have declared open season in response to the Trump conviction, Biden told Fox News, “Not at all. I didn’t do anything wrong. The system still works.”

Pressed to respond to Trump’s assertion that he was driving the legal cases against his political rival, the president smirked, “I didn’t know that I was that powerful.”

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.
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