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  • The Hill

    Speaker Johnson rails against Trump trial outside NY courthouse

    By Lauren SforzaMychael Schnell,


    NEW YORK — Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) railed against former President Trump’s hush money trial in remarks outside the Manhattan courthouse Tuesday, becoming the highest-ranking lawmaker to visit Trump in New York amid the ongoing legal proceedings.

    Johnson — who appeared alongside Trump in the courthouse hallway before delivering a statement outside — slammed the case against the former president as “election interference,” arguing prosecutors are trying to keep him off the campaign trail amid his race against President Biden.

    “This is the fifth week that President Trump has been in court for this sham of a trial. They are doing this intentionally to keep him here and keep him off of the campaign trail,” Johnson said. “And I think everybody in the country can see that for what it is.”

    “President Trump is innocent of these charges,” he later declared.

    GOP lawmakers have been flocking to the former president’s side as he remains stuck inside the Manhattan courtroom for the duration of the hush money trial, which takes up most of the week. Reps. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and Cory Mills (R-Fla.) were also seen alongside Trump at the courthouse Tuesday.

    Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) also traveled to New York on Monday to support Trump and offered similar remarks outside the courthouse.

    Johnson’s status makes him the highest-ranking lawmaker to appear alongside Trump since his trial began, however, a signal that the House GOP conference is squarely behind the former president despite Trump’s swirling legal troubles.

    Speaker Mike Johnson talks to the press across the street from the Manhattan criminal court where former President Trump’s trial is taking place on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

    The Speaker’s show of support came less than a week after the House easily blocked an effort, led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), to oust him from the top job. An overwhelming majority of Republicans voted to table Greene’s gambit — protecting the Speaker from a conservative coup — an outcome that some have, attributed in part to Trump’s public support for Johnson.

    Johnson also traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago last month amid his own political troubles. There, Trump issued a declaration: “I stand with the Speaker.” Trump also backed the Louisiana Republican on subsequent occasions and used a social media post to urge Republicans to vote to table the measure to oust the Speaker, though that Truth Social post published minutes after the vote was over.

    Johnson told reporters he voluntarily attended Trump’s trial Tuesday, calling the former president a “friend.”

    “I called President Trump and told him I wanted to be here myself to call out what is a travesty of justice. And I think everybody around the country can see that,” Johnson said. “President Trump is a friend and I wanted to be here to support him.”

    “I came here, again, today on my own to support President Trump because I am one of hundreds of millions of people, and one citizen, who is deeply concerned about this,” he later added.

    Johnson’s appearance came just as the prosecution’s star witness, Trump’s ex-fixer Michael Cohen, took the stand for the second day. Johnson, like his Republican colleagues, took aim at Cohen and tried to undermine his credibility as a witness.

    “This is a man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge and who is widely known as a witness who has trouble with the truth,” Johnson said.

    “He is someone who has a history of perjury and is well-known for it. No one should believe a word he says today,” he added.

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    Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection to reimbursements made to Cohen, who made a $130,000 payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to stay quiet ahead of the 2016 election about her alleged affair with Trump from a decade prior. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has denied the affair.

    Trump is also under a gag order that bars him from criticizing the witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, court staff or the judge’s family. It does not bar him from talking about the judge overseeing the case or Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D).

    Johnson labeled the gag order as “ridiculous and unprecedented,” arguing it overrides Trump’s “constitutional right to defend himself from political smears from his harshest critics at the most important time.”

    An appeals court upheld the gag order later Tuesday.

    The Speaker also took aim at the other legal cases involving Trump, including the federal investigation into the former president’s retention of classified documents. Judge Aileen Cannon indefinitely postponed that case — which involves special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation — earlier this month.

    “This is a … years-long partisan witch hunt. Years long,” Johnson said of the hush money trial. “And it’s been going on for quite some time. We’re seeing the same thing in the classified documents case. That one is so egregious, the trial has been indefinitely postponed.”

    Johnson said he is working with House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) “on measures to rein in the abuses of special counsel Jack Smith.”

    “In Congress, we have oversight responsibility, and it is our objective and our responsibility to hold them accountable,” he said. “These are politically motivated trials, and they are a disgrace. It is election interference. And they show how desperate the opposition that President Trump has and how desperate they truly are.”

    “The American people are not going to let this stand,” he continued. “Election Day cannot get here soon enough. And we will continue to shine a light on all of this in Congress, because we have that constitutional responsibility.”

    Updated at 11:25 a.m. ET

    For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.

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