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Like pilgrims they came, many dressed in the requisite attire of their newfound religion — blue jacket, red tie — to prostrate themselves before the MAGA altar in and around a Manhattan courthouse.

There was U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, third in the line for the presidency, first in line to confirm his party's slavish obedience to a multiply indicted former president.

There were U.S. Sens. Eric Schmitt of Missouri, J.D. Vance of Ohio, Rick Scott of Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, each representing millions of constituents. Including a great many who are no doubt nauseated at the narratives that have recently emerged from the hush money trial within.

There were assorted members of Congress and state and local GOP officials and candidates, all coming on bended knee (symbolically, at least) with a unified message to America: Donald Trump can do no wrong. No matter what. Even though he paid off a porn star to shut her up about their alleged dalliance as he sought the presidency in 2016.

Trump is innocent of any crime unless and until the New York jury finds otherwise. But the porn-star payoff itself is uncontroverted. Yet even that grubby fact apparently hasn't given pause to the assorted Trumpian lickspittles who have crowded the courthouse in eager support of their presumptive presidential nominee.

Will the last one out of the so-called "Family Values Party" please turn off the lights?

The defense in Trump's trial rested Tuesday without testimony from the ex-president — a wise move by his lawyers, whose fact-averse client would no doubt have perjured himself on the stand. Closing arguments are expected next week.

Then it will be up to the jury to decide whether Trump knowingly falsified business records in order to prevent the voting public from learning that he'd paid to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Trump denies the alleged affair with Daniels in 2006, while his wife, Melania Trump, was home with a newborn. But he has acknowledged that he reimbursed his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to Daniels in 2016. He claims it was a personal matter and had nothing to do with the election.

Readers can decide for themselves whether it's believable that a businessman would pay six figures to bury an affair that didn't happen. Or whether that payment wasn't related to the election, given that it came a decade after the alleged affair. Looking the nation in the eye and insisting upon the deeply unlikely is something of a Donald Trump specialty.

Still, even with those justified suspicions, this is the least solid of the four pending criminal cases against him. The prosecution must prove not just that Trump committed business fraud, but that he did it in furtherance of other crimes. And even then, many legal scholars are skeptical of the prosecution's whole theory.

Criminality is one issue. Judging top Republicans by their own party's long-touted standards is another.

Whatever laws Trump did or didn't break, this is a former president who paid a porn star for her silence. Full stop.

The notion of "family values" has been a favored GOP cudgel since at least 1992, when it was a central theme of the Republican National Convention.

"We believe in traditional family values and in the Judeo-Christian heritage that informs our culture," proclaimed the RNC platform that year, one of at least seven references it made to that two-word phrase. (This was back when the GOP still touted an actual platform that said something more than, in essence, whatever Trump wants.)

First Lady Barbara Bush's convention speech that year predicted that her party's principles were helping raise families "with integrity, courage, strength — all the family values" to lead the country "in 10, 20 or 30 years."

Witness that party 32 years later: its top luminaries, red-tied and shoulder-to-shoulder around the courthouse, running interference for a degraded, degrading defendant whose lawyers dare not put him on the stand.

President George H.W. Bush was unseated later in 1992 by President Bill Clinton. Republicans subsequently impeached Clinton for lying about an alleged extramarital affair — one that involved neither money nor an election. One wonders what those Republican pols today (some are still in office) make of that pearl-clutching party's transformation under Trump.

But the point here isn't just about the past. For those Americans who are tempted this year to support what they still believe (or hope) are Republican values, consider:

Is this still the party of lower taxes and fiscal responsibility? The 2017 tax cut for the rich that Trump signed will add an estimated $2 trillion to the deficit; his determination to launch tariff wars could raise the cost of living more than any inflationary spike has.

Is this still the party of national security? Trump's plain disdain for NATO threatens to undermine western strength that has girded Russian aggression for 80 years.

Is this still the party of "family values"?

Can anyone really look at the porny pilgrimage in Manhattan and say that with a straight face?

This is the party of Trump. Period. That particular verdict is already in.