Outrageous or long overdue, constitutional malpractice or the epitome of “karma”: One thing that seemed to unite Americans this week was that nearly everyone had an opinion on the indictment of former President Donald Trump by a Manhattan grand jury.
While the specific charges against Trump will likely remain sealed until he is arraigned in New York next Tuesday, that hasn’t stopped the tidal wave of hot takes from U.S. politicians, cable news pundits, world leaders, celebrities and ordinary citizens from weighing in on whether Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was right to press ahead with a criminal case against the 45th president.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most noteworthy responses so far.
Former President Donald Trump
The man at the center of the storm has had no shortage of words about being charged with at least one felony. While he has used the grand jury indictment to raise money and fired off several angry messages on his social media platform, Truth Social, one posted Friday employed a dubious legal strategy of attacking the judge who will preside over the case against him in New York.
“The Judge ‘assigned’ to my Witch Hunt Case, a ‘Case’ that has NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE, HATES ME. His name is Juan Manuel Marchan, was hand picked by Bragg & the Prosecutors, & is the same person who ‘railroaded’ my 75 year old former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to take a ‘plea’ deal (Plead GUILTY, even if you are not, 90 DAYS, fight us in Court, 10 years (life!) in jail,” Trump wrote. “He strong armed Allen, which a judge is not allowed to do, & treated my companies, which didn’t ‘plead,’ VICIOUSLY. APPEALING!”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene
One of Trump’s staunchest supporters, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is considered a frontrunner to be named the former president’s running mate in 2024. Greene declared Friday that she was heading to New York on Tuesday to exercise her constitutional right to protest the indictment that she considers “unconstitutional.”
I’m going to New York on Tuesday.
We MUST protest the unconstitutional WITCH HUNT!
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) March 31, 2023
Former Vice President Mike Pence
Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared for an interview with CNN shortly after the indictment was announced and walked a fine line when asked about it.
“I think the unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance charge is an outrage,” Pence said Wednesday night on CNN. But pressed by anchor Wolf Blitzer on whether Trump should continue running for president if he’s convicted on those charges, Pence deflected.
“It’s a long way to that decision, I promise to answer that question if that approaches,” he replied.
The recipient of a $130,000 hush money payment from Trump in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign, porn actress Stormy Daniels has long maintained that she had extramarital sex with him. The payment, which was made to Daniels by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen through a shell company, is alleged to have violated campaign finance laws. Daniels has long drawn the ire of Trump supporters, and on Thursday she once again seemed to revel in the attention directed her way on social media.
Thank you to everyone for your support and love! I have so many messages coming in that I can’t respond…also don’t want to spill my champagne 😜 #Teamstormy merch/autograph orders are pouring in, too! Thank you for that as well but allow a few extra days for shipment.
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) March 30, 2023
One of Bragg’s key witnesses, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, was convicted of tax evasion, making false statements to a federally insured bank and campaign finance violations in service of Trump and his businesses. The relationship between Trump and Cohen nose-dived following Cohen’s 2018 indictment, and Cohen later accused Trump of letting him take the fall for crimes Trump directed. On Friday, Cohen made clear that he believed vengeance would soon be his.
“I want to thank the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and their fearless leader Alvin Bragg, with whom I spent countless hours laying out how Trump directed those hush money payments and countless other financial crimes,” Cohen said Friday on his podcast. “He is about to get a taste of what I went through and I promise you it’s not fun.”
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has never hidden her dislike of Trump and on Thursday she released a statement that avoided using his name altogether.
“The Grand Jury has acted upon the facts and the law. No one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence,” Pelosi wrote. “Hopefully, the former president will peacefully respect the system, which grants him that right.”
Several legal commentators noted that Pelosi had shifted the “presumption of innocence” for defendants in criminal cases to “the right to a trial to prove innocence,” an altogether different standard.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued his own controversial statement Thursday about Trump’s indictment. In it, he accused Bragg of “routinely” freeing “violent criminals to terrorize the public,” adding that the Manhattan district attorney had “weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump.”
While McCarthy vowed to hold Bragg accountable in the House, the odds of that actually happening are slim, experts say.
Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election.
As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump.
The American people will not…
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) March 30, 2023
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
A more measured response came from Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who issued a statement Thursday night on the indictment.
“Mr. Trump is subject to the same laws as every American. He will be able to avail himself of the legal system and a jury, not politics, to determine his fate according to the facts and the law,” Schumer said in his statement. “There should be no outside political influence, intimidation or interference in the case. I encourage both Mr. Trump’s critics and supporters to let the process proceed peacefully and according to the law.”
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
The initial hours following Trump’s indictment were marked by a deafening silence from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Unlike McCarthy, Schumer and Pelosi, he kept his cards very close to his vest.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Trump’s chief political rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, outraged Trumpworld for his initial response to speculation over the former president’s possible indictment.
“I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just — I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis at a press conference last week.
On Thursday, he seemed to offer more support to Trump, however, tweeting that “Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda.”
Extradition will not likely be necessary, however, as Trump’s lawyers have indicated that he will turn himself in to the district attorney in New York on Tuesday.
The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head.
It is un-American.
The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is…
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 30, 2023
A central talking point for Trump and his supporters is Bragg’s relationship with billionaire philanthropist George Soros. While Soros backed a political action committee that donated to Bragg’s campaign, his portrayal as the puppet master who controls every decision Bragg makes lacks any actual evidence. On Friday, Semafor journalist Steve Clemons reached out to Soros for his take on the Trump indictment.
His response was as follows:
“Steve, I wrote this piece in the Wall Street Journal. Anyone who wants to understand why I’ve donated to reform-minded prosecutors should read it. As for Alvin Bragg, as a matter of fact I did not contribute to his campaign and I don’t know him. I think some on the right would rather focus on far-fetched conspiracy theories than on serious charges against the former president.”
El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele
Few foreign leaders rushed to offer their initial opinions on the legal proceedings involving Trump, but El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele was an exception.
Sadly, it’ll be very hard for US Foreign Policy to use arguments such as “democracy” and “free and fair elections”, or try to condemn “political persecution” in other countries, from now on 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/HQTv0vUuA2
— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) March 31, 2023
Central Park Five member Yusef Salaam
A notable reaction to the news of Trump’s indictment came from Yusef Salaam, who was charged, convicted and later exonerated in the 1989 rape case involving a female jogger in Central Park.
Salaam issued a one-word statement Thursday regarding Trump’s indictment: “Karma.”
As the case first made headlines in New York, Trump called for the death penalty for the suspects, including Salaam, none of whom were guilty of committing the crime.
DNA analysis was later used to convict Matias Reyes of the brutal rape of the woman. As president, Trump refused to apologize to the men who were exonerated.
Actor John Cusack celebrated Trump’s indictment and pointed to the news Thursday that convicted former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg had decided to change lawyers as another ominous sign for the former president.
TRUMP INDICTED! Manhattan – with the Wiesel flip! A beautiful day – a day I thought I’d never see – trump has done the impossible ; the entire system set up to make a president above the law – without admitting it . Only a pathological criminal idiot https://t.co/ZuwHPWB3A7…
— John Cusack (@johncusack) March 30, 2023
Fox News host Tucker Carlson spent Thursday’s broadcast exhorting his viewers to protest Bragg’s indictment of Trump, claiming that it was designed to force Trump from the 2024 race. While other guests offered similarly dour assessments of the state of the country due to the historic indictment, none of them were quite as remarkable as right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck.
“By 2025, we are going to be at war. We are going to have a new dollar, a currency that probably is coming from the central bank. We’ll have a currency collapse, and we will live in a virtual police state,” Beck told Carlson. “I know that might sound crazy to a lot of people. It’s not far off. The Bill of Rights is gone. Nobody is paying attention.”
Author ZZ Packer
While much of the response to Thursday’s grand jury indictment took an ominous tone, short story writer and essayist ZZ Packer offered a comical retort to a warning from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.