Minnesota Republicans on Thursday blasted the historic indictment of former President Donald Trump as politically motivated, while Democrats maintained that no one in the United States is above the law.
Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict the former Republican president for his role in hush money payments made during the 2016 election to silence claims that he had an extramarital affair, making him the first former president to be criminally indicted.
Minnesota Democrats pointed to the gravity of the development in their initial public reactions to Thursday's news.
"It is important that in our society, the legal system holds people accountable for crimes committed. No exception should be given for a twice-impeached former president — to do so would undermine the rule of law and our democracy," U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said in a statement shortly after the news broke.
The Minnesota DFL Party issued a similar statement.
"If the allegations are true that Donald Trump subverted the democratic process by paying hush money to conceal an affair from voters, then Donald Trump should be held accountable," Minnesota DFL spokesman Brian Evans said.
Some prominent Republicans in Minnesota and across the country labeled the indictment as politically motivated.
"It is disconcerting to see our justice system used to pursue partisan ends," Minnesota Republican Party Chairman David Hann said in a statement. "A Democrat district attorney is busy tying up time and resources to go after a political opponent instead of cracking down on lawlessness in New York — which just saw another year of record-breaking crime."
In social media posts earlier this month, Trump called on supporters to protest if he was arrested, and he later mentioned the prospect of "potential death & destruction" over the criminal charge.
Trump is running again for the White House after losing the 2020 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during part of Trump's presidency, is his main GOP competition so far. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is considered to be a potential contender as well, along with others.
None of Minnesota's four U.S. House Republicans have endorsed Trump in his 2024 White House bid.
Majority Whip Tom Emmer, the third-highest ranking House Republican, on Twitter accused the Manhattan district attorney of being a "socialist" who "would rather pursue a politically motivated witch hunt against President Donald Trump than crack down on violent crime."
"The American people won't forget," said Emmer, who represents Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District.
In an interview earlier this week, GOP U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber said he viewed the case as politically motivated but declined to focus on Trump's "potential death & destruction" line.
"I'm not going to comment on what he said," Stauber said Tuesday. "What I'm telling you is the First Amendment protects peaceful protests. And I do believe that … the potential indictment is politically motivated."
Spokespeople for Stauber and fellow Republican representatives Michelle Fischbach and Brad Finstad did not provide comments Thursday.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a fervent Trump ally, said he thinks the indictment will be met with intense political blowback that could hand Trump the presidency in 2024.
"It's disgusting what they've done," Lindell said in an interview. "He's done nothing wrong."
GOP state Rep. Kurt Daudt, who served as Minnesota House speaker from 2015 to 2017, said he thinks Democrats "have been after [Trump] for a long time."
"They probably would love to indict him over many things — January 6 and other things," said Daudt, R-Crown, in an interview. "Was this something that they pursued because they couldn't find something else? I don't know."
Many Republican voters still strongly support Trump, Daudt said. He added that he wasn't sure the indictment would have any effect on the direction of the Republican party, other than in deciding whether to choose him as a candidate.
"He obviously played a big role in our party in the past," Daudt said. "I don't know if he will in the future or not."
Some Democrats in Minnesota's delegation were quick to weigh in. Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig said in a statement that "today serves as a solemn reminder that we can never allow politics to dictate the rule of law."
"I strongly urge anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in response to this announcement to do so peacefully," Craig said. "I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will allow the judicial process to run its course free from political interference."
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar noted in a statement that the case "is just one of many criminal acts for which Donald Trump is being investigated."
"Political interference in a criminal investigation, up to and including incitement of violence, are hallmarks of democratic decline," Omar said. "I hope all of my colleagues will join me in supporting justice and accountability — regardless of party — for the sake of our democracy."
Other Minnesota Democrats offered brief statements. "This case now goes before the state trial court in New York, and we all must respect the judicial process," Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith called the indictment a "serious matter" and said she's waiting to see full details about the charges.
While the news sank in Thursday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips tweeted that "no one is above the law and everyone has the right to due process."
"And tonight is a historically sad one for America," Phillips said.