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Lori Chavez DeRemer
Republican Rep. Lori Chavez DeRemer speaks at a debate. Steve Dipaola/AP

The Right to Remain Silent: Vulnerable House Republicans Avoid Talking About the Trump Verdict

A week after Trump was convicted, a number of House Republicans have completely avoided discussing the verdict — and many have no plans to say anything.

A week after former President Donald Trump was convicted on all 34 felony counts against him, some vulnerable House Republicans still haven’t said a word about it.

Most would prefer to just not.

Nearly a dozen House GOP lawmakers in close reelection fights have still not publicly reacted to last week’s guilty verdict, even as some of their political opponents have started hammering them over their silence.

In interviews this week, it became clear that vulnerable Republicans see little to be gained by speaking out on the verdict — and they’re coming up with all sorts of excuses for staying out of it.

Some GOP members suggested they were too busy. “I don’t know,” Rep. Michelle Steel of California told NOTUS when asked if she plans to make a statement on the verdict. “I just came back, and I’m on five different committees.”

Some Republicans tried to deflect. “People are concerned with high gas prices, high food prices, and what’s happening on the ground,” Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer told NOTUS. “In Oregon, it’s crime, it’s economics, education, fentanyl.”

And some frontline Republicans are just outright ignoring it. Rep. David Valadao of California told NOTUS he’s “not getting involved.”

“Nope,” he said when asked if his constituents have talked to him about it.

All over Capitol Hill this week, Republicans in tough reelection battles dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged questions about the verdict. And Democrats across the country spent their time hammering the issue in races against the most at-risk Republican incumbents, knowing the uncomfortable position Trump has placed many Republicans in could determine who controls the House next year.

Pressed on how she personally feels about the guilty decision, Chavez-DeRemer did her best pivot. “I can be in the district five days in a row, and nobody brings up what’s happening in the trial except for the concern they have with the system,” she said. “Can you blame the jurors? No. They were given their instructions. This system can work. What goes into the system, was there corruption? I don’t know. But people were questioning those things. But at the end of the day, the only thing they brought up was those local issues.”

Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona said he also hasn’t heard from many constituents about it. “This happens, and do you know how many phone calls we got in our district office? One,” he told NOTUS. “We probably got 15 immigration questions, a bunch of casework and a couple of people mad about inflation. But the number who called about this? One.”

Schweikert said the only reason he hasn’t put out an official statement on the trial is because “I despise Twitter” and he prefers to discuss issues in longer interviews.

“The politicization of individuals, particularly elected individuals, is real,” Schweikert said. “And sometimes, intellectually, if you’re going to do a couple of lines on Twitter, you’re not able to communicate that.”

Several other frontline Republicans were dead silent on the verdict.

“I don’t know if I have a statement or not on that,” said freshman Rep. Kevin Kiley. “I mean, the case is going to appeal.”

California Rep. Mike Garcia, who also hasn’t put out an official statement on the verdict, said he’s been “pretty transparent” about his views in various media interviews; he’s “not hiding anything,” he said.

“It was a political show trial,” he told NOTUS. “You had what would have normally been two misdemeanors being elevated to felony charges.”

Like other members, he tried to focus back on local issues, citing crime and inflation.

“The reality is we haven’t gotten very many phone calls, and the phone calls that we’ve gotten have been pretty evenly split about what they want to hear and what they want to say,” Garcia said. “For the most part, the average American doesn’t want to talk about this issue, at least the voters in my district, but they see this trial as what it is, which was a political show trial.”

Other swing district Republicans are apparently feeling confident about their chances. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, whose district went for Joe Biden by 6.3%, offered a perspective nearly indistinguishable from conservative members of his party. “Sad day for the country,” he wrote of the verdict. “This is an unprecedented prosecution for a crime very seldom charged, led by a prosecutor who campaigned on going after Trump. That undermines the credibility of the verdict.”

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, quickly slammed him over it. Bacon, she wrote, “is leaning into full MAGA mentality.”

She’s not the only one trying to capitalize on the situation. While many top Democratic officials avoided making overt campaign pitches immediately after the verdict, some Democratic candidates for swing seats are attacking their GOP opponents for not sufficiently distancing themselves from Trump.

Ashley Ehasz, the Democrat running against moderate Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, said her campaign will continue a “steady drumbeat” of reminding voters in the district — one that swung for Biden by 5 points in 2020 — that Fitzpatrick hasn’t taken a public position on Trump’s conviction.

“Brian, at the core of this, is a hypocrite,” she said. “The team and I will just keep calling upon him to actually tell us what he wants to do when it comes to Trump.”

But the truth is, most Republicans have spoken in support of Trump — even Republicans who have backed his impeachment.

“The jury was led to believe that two misdemeanors make a felony and that a state court could enforce federal law,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who voted to convict Trump of “incitement of insurrection” in an impeachment trial for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. “None of this seems right. The rule of law should apply equally to both parties. I disagree with the verdict.”

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Comparatively moderate New York GOP Reps. Marc Molinaro, Mike Lawler, Nick LaLota and Anthony D’Esposito also jumped to Trump’s defense after the verdict.

“At the end of the day, Republican voters have chosen to put Donald Trump on the ballot,” said Lawler. “And what you saw in New York was frankly a misuse of the justice system and an abuse of the justice system by a partisan political hack.”

“My voters in my district know who I am,” he told reporters when asked about the verdict. “I have the fourth-most bipartisan voting record in the entire Congress.”

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.

Haley Byrd Wilt is a reporter at NOTUS.