Mr Trump was roundly defended on Fox News, including by hosts who had reviled him in private.
Even many of Mr Trump’s potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination snapped into line behind him in the hours after news of the indictment broke, looking more like allies than competitors.
All passed on the opportunity to criticise the former president – and some rushed to his defence – in a sign of just how reluctant 2024 contenders are to directly confront him and antagonise his many millions of supporters in the party.
Mr Mike Pence – the former vice-president whose life was put at risk when Jan 6 rioters sought him out after Mr Trump blamed him for allowing Congress to ratify the results of the 2020 election – denounced the indictment for what he called “a campaign finance issue” as an “outrage” and a “political prosecution”.
A few Republicans remained silent, among them Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Senator John Thune, the second-ranking Senate Republican.
Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, who is also flirting with a presidential run, appeared to be keeping mum as well. So too was Mr Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and one-time Trump ally who is considering a 2024 run for president and who recently vowed that he would never again support the former president.
The indictment in Manhattan concerns hush money payments made in the final days of the 2016 campaign to Ms Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film star who had threatened to go public with her claim that she had a short affair with Mr Trump a decade earlier.
She was paid US$130,000 (S$173,000) not to speak publicly about her claims, and the payments were channelled through Mr Trump’s fixer and personal lawyer, Mr Michael D. Cohen, who has said Mr Trump approved the scheme.
The Manhattan case is likely to hinge on the way Mr Trump and his company, the Trump Organisation, handled reimbursing Mr Cohen. Internal records falsely classified the reimbursements as legal expenses, helping conceal the purpose of the payments, according to Mr Cohen.
Mr Trump’s lawyers deny this.
Mr Trump is also under investigation in Georgia, where prosecutors in Fulton County are expected to make a decision soon on whether to seek an indictment against him and his allies over their efforts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
Mr Trump famously made a call to the state secretary of state Brad Raffensperger urging him to “find 11,780 votes”, which would have given him a victory in the state.
A special grand jury has heard evidence in the Georgia case and produced a final report, though its recommendations on charges remain under seal.
In Washington, a Justice Department special counsel is leading two separate investigations, into Mr Trump’s broader actions to cling to power after his 2020 electoral defeat and into his hoarding of documents marked as classified after leaving office.
If the other criminal investigations result in charges, there is no guarantee that the New York case will be the first to go to trial.
“The fact that New York is first to indict does not mean it will be the first to try,” said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers. “A federal indictment will be swifter if it comes.” NYTIMES
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