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Trump surrounded himself with 'crackpot lawyers' after 2020 election loss, Mike Pence says

'A DC jury would indict a ham sandwich and convict a ham sandwich if it was a Republican ham sandwich,' Gov. Ron DeSantis says
Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-02 18:10:49-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The second federal indictment of former President Donald Trump has again thrust the nation into uncharted waters. The 2024 GOP candidates are in uncertain territory as well, again trying to figure out how to handle the latest bombshell in the race for the White House.

Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith announced the indictment Tuesday evening.

In a more than 40-page indictment, the prosecutor alleges that Trump worked with six others to undermine the results of the 2020 election. Smith charged Trump with four counts, including "conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding."

"In this case, my office will seek a speedy trial so that our evidence can be tested in court and judged by a jury of citizens," Smith in remarks Tuesday evening. "In the meantime, I must emphasize that the indictment is only an allegation and that the defendant must be presumed innocent until proven guilty."

Since then, the former president has fallen on familiar tactics. Trump, online Wednesday, again labeled himself a victim of a weaponized justice system. He praised supporters and continued to assert that the vice president had the power to overturn the 2020 election. Constitutional experts have said that's a fallacy.

For 2024 Republican rivals, it's another mixed bag of reactions. Some seem to have split into two categories, condemn or commend. Florida's governor was among those running to Trump's aid, backing his claims of bias and saying a forthcoming trial would need a national jury pool.

"A DC jury would indict a ham sandwich and convict a ham sandwich if it was a Republican ham sandwich," Gov. Ron DeSantis said while speaking on Fox News. "I think Americans need to be able to remove cases out of DC."

Former Vice President Mike Pence was on the other side of the issue. While he hasn't weighed in on Trump's potential guilt, Pence said in Indiana Wednesday that he repeatedly told the former president that a vice president can't overturn an election.

"Sadly, the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear," Pence said. "And while I made my case to him of what I understood my oath to the Constitution to require, the president ultimately continued to demand that I choose him over the Constitution."

To date — backing or denouncing Trump hasn't made much of a difference in national GOP primary polls. The former president still has a massive lead, but pundits say not to count the others out just yet.

"It is still the middle of summer, and so even the full Republican base that is going to be voting in these primaries is not necessarily as attuned as they will be," Josh Scacco, a University of South Florida political science professor, said.

Democrats have urged Americans to let the legal system run its course. Though others have said the indictment again affirms the right pick next year.

"You know the message for voters? It's Joe Biden," Florida Democrats Chair Nikki Fried said. "Joe Biden has been able to deliver on his promises to the people of our country."

Biden has approval problems of his own ahead of November 2024, and with at least one more Trump indictment possible, election night seems incredibly far away.

Trump was expected to be arraigned Thursday in Washington, D.C. While he spends time in the courts, his rivals are on the ground in those key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, trying to make a dent in the front runner's lead.