The hot new GOP club is at Trump’s New York trial

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The hot new GOP club is at Trump’s New York trial

The Manhattan courthouse where former President Trump is on trial has become the latest proving ground for Republicans to show their loyalty and bolster their credentials with Team Trump.

A parade of GOP lawmakers and other Republicans have attended Trump’s hush money trial in recent days, standing alongside the former president and delivering remarks attacking the case as political, sometimes in ways Trump cannot because of a gag order.

There are obvious benefits for those showing up. They could win an endorsement from Trump, kind words, a future administration post or, perhaps, the office of the vice president.

“Those who show up and really drive home his message during this trial are really going to be reciprocated politically,” one GOP strategist said to The Hill.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) attended last week, followed by Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) on Monday.  

The group grew Tuesday, with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) standing behind Trump as he addressed reporters outside the courtroom.

Trump is clearly pleased with the parade of Republicans in New York.

“I do have a lot of surrogates, and they are speaking very beautifully,” Trump said. “We have a lot of great people here to talk to you.”

A Trump campaign official said those who have attended the trial have done so on their own and were not invited by the campaign.

It’s a notable shift from earlier in the trial, when Trump’s entourage was smaller and mainly comprising his lawyers, Secret Service detail and a few campaign aides. The increase in turnout followed testimony from the adult film actor Stormy Daniels, which sources said took a toll on Trump.

Now, as jurors hear from Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-fixer who is prosecutors’ star witness, more than 15 people at times have followed the former president into the courtroom. 

Trump puts an emphasis on loyalty from his supporters and takes note of what they are saying in the media. It’s typical for Johnson and other lawmakers to make the trek to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump to try to bolster their standing with the former president. 

But attending the trial where Trump is accused of making a hush money payment to Daniels to cover up an alleged affair marks new ground even for some of Trump’s most ardent allies.  

Johnson shows up

The Speaker’s appearance was notable since Johnson was appearing in his official role, not simply a Louisiana congressman.

There also are big questions over whether Johnson would retain his role next year should the GOP hold on to its majority. Trump recently backed Johnson, who did not actually enter the courtroom, as he faced an effort by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to oust him.

Johnson, in remarks outside the courthouse Tuesday, said Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter’s work in Democratic politics was “among the atrocities” in the case, which he framed as part of a broader attempt by the Justice Department to thwart Trump for political reasons. 

Scott has also attacked Merchan’s daughter, claiming that her work tainted the judge’s impartiality.

Trump had mounted efforts to get Merchan recused over his daughter’s work at a progressive digital agency, but the judge rejected the demands after getting advice from an ethics committee for New York judges.

Trump is under a gag order that prohibits him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and the judge’s family. But his allies in Congress are under no such restrictions and have likely pleased him with attacks on the credibility of witnesses and the judge.

One Republican strategist argued there are multiple benefits for Trump to having surrogates join him in person.

It helps the former president control the narrative, and it creates an impression for those following the proceedings inside and outside the courtroom that there is strong support for Trump, the strategist said.

“Yes, it shows support. Yes, it puts on a united front. But it also shows you why Trump is an earned media master,” the strategist said. 

Trump has often given shoutouts to his allies in attendance, praising them and reading off their statements attacking the case from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D).

“They think it’s a terrible thing that is happening to democracy in this country,” Trump said Monday when asked why lawmakers from Washington had joined him. “We have a lot of them; they want to come. I say, just stay back and pass lots of laws to stop things like this.” 

VP race

The courthouse has become almost a necessary stop for those vying to join Trump on the ticket in November. Vance, Burgum and Donalds are among those being considered for the post.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), another contender to serve as Trump’s running mate, has reportedly had discussions with his team about attending the trial. 

Vance, in a series of posts on the social platform X on Monday, called into question Cohen’s credibility as a witness and sarcastically called him a “standup guy.”

The senator also pushed back on the idea that Trump is unfit for office because he has dozed off during court, quipping, “I’m 39 years old and I’ve been here for 26 minutes and I’m about to fall asleep.”

“The sooner that this scam trial can be concluded, the sooner that the president can get back to getting out campaigning and talking to the American people about the issues that matter to them,” Burgum said outside the courthouse Tuesday.

Inside the courtroom, Trump’s allies have typically sat in the first or second row of the gallery, near the former president’s security detail and where his son, Eric Trump, sits when he attends. Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, was also in attendance Tuesday for the first time.

They have generally paid attention to the proceedings, including looking toward the monitors to read documents being shown to the jury. But some have also been on their phones at times. 

Trump-allied state attorneys general have shown up, too. Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird (R) and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) sat in Monday, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) joined for a day earlier in the trial.

Days after Paxton attended, Trump endorsed various primary challengers to Texas lawmakers who voted to impeach Paxton last year. The former president dubbed it a “fraudulent impeachment” in posts on Truth Social.

The cavalcade of guests has even caught the eye of some Democrats, who view it as the latest sign that Trump’s trials are turning into something of a media circus.

“As if this weren’t already a bizarre reality show, now we have celebrity guest courtroom gallery appearances of acolytes looking to punch their card with the Boss,” David Axelrod, who served as a senior adviser to former President Obama, posted on X.