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Trump's attorney, Jim Trusty, called the charges — which reportedly include false statements, conspiracy to obstruct and a charge under the Espionage Act — "ludicrous."
Trusty confirmed to CNN that the Department of Justice sent a summons letter to the Republican presidential candidate's legal team via email listing the counts and scheduling a Miami federal court appearance for Tuesday afternoon.
Republicans, legal experts, and other keen observers reckon this development is an attempt by the Biden administration and those subject to its influence to sap the Democratic president's top political challenger ahead of the 2024 election.
After all, Biden, no stranger to accusations of mishandling classified documents, could use the help.
Republicans respond on a 'dark day'
Republicans circled the wagons Thursday night, certain justice was not the aim with this latest Trump indictment.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested the indictment was the "culmination of what Merrick Garland has been pushing for since he became Attorney General. The weaponization of our Department of Justice against enemies of the Biden admin. will do enormous damage to the rule of law & have a lasting impact."
Cruz told Fox Business on Thursday that Attorney General Merrick Garland "has corrupted the machinery of government. He's the most partisan Attorney General in our nation's history."
While in competition with Trump for the Republican nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis condemned the indictment, writing, "The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation. Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary or Hunter?"
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) tweeted, "The former president will be indicted for 'mishandling' his own government’s classified info. Yet everyone agrees the president has the authority to declassify anything. This is a moral and constitutional joke. Merrick Garland has disgraced this country."
"Biden is attacking his most likely 2024 opponent," continued Vance. "He’s using the justice system to preemptively steal the 2024 election. This is what’s happening, plain and simple."
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) concurred, stressing that if the Biden DOJ was indeed trying to clear the political field for President Joe Biden with this indictment, the country was in serious trouble.
"If the president in power can just jail his political opponents, which is what Joe Biden is trying to do tonight, we don't have a republic anymore. We don't have the rule of law. We don't have the Constitution," Hawley told Fox News. "No one should be in doubt of what's happening tonight. Joe Biden and his cronies are trying to take out their chief political opponent."
Hawley added, "this has never happened before in American history. ... We are in dangerous, dangerous waters and it is because of Joe Biden."
\u201cHawley: If the president in power can jail his political opponents, which is what Joe Biden is trying to do tonight, we don't have a republic anymore. We don't have the rule of law or constitution.\u201d— Acyn (@Acyn) 1686277619
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) said Trump's indictment marked a "dark day for the United States of America."
"It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades. I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice," wrote McCarthy. "House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable."
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) noted the curious timing of the indictment: "On the day members of Congress learn from an FBI document linking then VP Joe Biden to receiving $5 MILLION from Burisma in a pay-for-play scheme, Biden’s DOJ announces another phony indictment of the leading candidate for the GOP Presidential nomination, Biden’s likely opponent, and the former POTUS."
Donalds added, "This mob-like justice system is turning Lady Justice on its head and is the most significant threat to our democracy."
"They're doing it to affect the election," said Trump. "They [are] cheating on the election just like the did the last time."
\u201cI AM AN INNOCENT MAN. THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IS TOTALLY CORRUPT. THIS IS ELECTION INTERFERENCE & A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!\u201d— Trump War Room (@Trump War Room) 1686269728
Eliminating the competition
Republican lawmakers are not the only ones scratching their heads over the indictment.
Legal expert Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax, "Unless this indictment is the strongest case since [former President] Richard Nixon's obstruction of justice back in the 1970s, this is a disgrace."
"When you have the current administration going after the man who was potentially capable of unseating them, it better be the strongest case imaginable," said Dershowitz. "It better be the case that would get bipartisan support."
Dershowitz stressed that unless Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor appointed by Garland to lead the documents probe, has an ironclad case replete with damning evidence, "this is an indictment that never, ever should have been brought," adding that if "President Trump believed that he had declassified the material and that he was entitled to possess them, then it can't be a crime to refuse to turn them over."
Former Trump advisor and "War Room" host Steve Bannon responded to the news, saying, "This whole fantasy about DOJ [being] separate from the administration, the FBI's independent — they're not independent agencies. This is some fantasy that the left has cooked up. ... Merrick Garland is hardwired into the White House. The FBI is hardwired into Merrick Garland. They're rolling against Trump 'cause they can't beat Trump at the ballot box. The most important thing they have to do from their own perspective is demoralize you."
Investigative journalist Matt Taibbi, admittedly no fan of Trump, told NewsNation, "If you're going to take the very extreme step of indicting somebody who is the likely nominee of the opposition party, the charge has to meet two tests: It has to be extremely serious and it has to be an airtight case. And I think both of these cases fail on both of those points."
Stephen Miller, contributing editor at the Spectator, tweeted, "Comey found stripped classified material on a laptop of the husband of Hillary Clinton's closest aide, who didn't have a security clearance & was sexting 15 year olds, and he went like 'Yeah we're not pressing charges here' Everything about the Trump indictment is political."
Byron York, chief political correspondent at the Washington Examiner, underscored that this indictment is not only the first federal charge against a former president, "but it would also be the first time a sitting president's administration has indicted a leading opposition party candidate in the run-up to a presidential election."
Trump's attorney Jim Trusty told NBC's "Today" that the former president's legal team does not anticipate another indictment from the D.C. grand jury empaneled in the classified documents case.
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.