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Ron Johnson
“I haven’t been looking at the trials at all,” Sen. Ron Johnson said. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republicans Say They’re Not Watching Donald Trump’s Criminal Trial

The former president’s first criminal trial is underway and could define the future of Republican Party leadership, but don’t expect the congressional GOP to speak to the proceedings.

President Donald Trump has spent his week in a courtroom for the first-ever criminal trial against a former U.S. president, making headlines nationwide. Republicans in Congress would rather not talk about it.

In fact, Senate Republicans tell NOTUS they are simply not keeping up with Trump’s legal turmoils: They’re too busy, and the indictments are a sham, they said.

“I’m not paying attention to it,” Sen. John Barrasso said. “These are political trials; this is a political persecution against the former president by the current administration’s demands. They’re trying to win an election.”

“I’m not watching that,” Sen. Roger Marshall said. “They’re not really trials, just political stunts. [Homeland Security Secretary] Alejandro Mayorkas should have been impeached yesterday. That’s the story we need to be talking about.”

“We’ve been in the middle of the NDAA background right now, and most of it has been in classified sessions,” Sen. Mike Rounds said. “When we haven’t been on the floor, I just haven’t had time to pay attention to it.”

Sens. Tommy Tuberville, Susan Collins, Todd Young, Pete Ricketts, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson also told NOTUS they’re not getting in on the details.

Trump has been mandated to be present for all court dates related to the hush money criminal trial in New York. It’s one of four criminal cases the former president is facing during this election cycle. As the presumptive Republican nominee for president, the future of the party’s leadership hinges on the outcome of these cases.

Republicans in Congress have joined Trump in attacking the many criminal indictments against him as a political witch hunt. This month, the House Republicans held a hearing on “Victims of Violent Crime in Manhattan” as part of a concerted effort to malign Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump ally, has also launched investigations into special counsel Jack Smith, who brought Jan. 6-related charges against Trump.

Republicans have also been quick to call for delays in prosecution, raising concerns that Trump’s courtroom obligations will mean he is absent from the campaign trail.

“All of this litigation should be pushed off until after the election is over,” Rep. Max Miller said. “This is insane. They’re free to pursue anything they’d like, but they should not be doing this during a general election.”

As NOTUS reported, Trump’s legal problems have also trickled down to the state Republican parties. The Republican Party has not been raising as much as Democrats at the national level; in March, President Joe Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee reported raising a combined $90 million, while Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee say they amassed $66 million.

While the Republicans’ national arm for state legislative races raised more than Democrats in the first couple months of 2024, several crucial state GOP parties are inundated with legal fees around Trump’s calls to subvert the 2020 election results.

Trump’s money concerns, meanwhile, appear to be only growing. On Tuesday, prosecutors in the hush money case filed a motion to hold the former president in contempt after they claimed he violated Judge Juan Merchan’s gag order. Prosecutors called for a $1,000 fine for every violation.

But back in Washington, Republican senators are putting up blinders to these ups and downs.

“I haven’t been looking at the trials at all,” Johnson said. “It’s a travesty of justice. He’s obviously not going to be given a fair trial.”

Calen Razor is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.