Home Part of States Newsroom
“A sham”: Texas Republicans defend Trump after guilty verdict


“A sham”: Texas Republicans defend Trump after guilty verdict

May 30, 2024 | 6:44 pm ET
By Matthew Choi
Texas state capitol

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

WASHINGTON — Texas Republicans rallied to former President Donald Trump’s defense Thursday after a Manhattan jury convicted him on 34 felony charges related to falsifying business records to cover a sex scandal.

“This was a sham show trial. The Kangaroo Court will never stand on appeal. Americans deserve better than a sitting U.S. President weaponizing our justice system against a political opponent— all to win an election,” Gov. Greg Abbott said on social media. “We must FIRE Joe Biden in November.”

The jury in a New York state court convicted Trump on all charges of falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels allegedly had an affair with Trump before he was president, which he denies. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought the charges against Trump, who is campaigning as the presumptive Republican nominee for this year’s presidential election.

No president has ever been found guilty of a crime before today.

Leaving the courthouse Thursday afternoon, Trump said he was the victim of a “rigged, disgraceful trial.” His legal team indicated he would appeal, having argued that it was impossible to compile an unbiased jury in a city that voted overwhelmingly against him in 2020.

“They wouldn’t give us a venue change,” Trump said. “This was done by the Biden administration in order to remove and to hurt opponents.”

The Manhattan district attorney’s office prosecutes state crimes and is separate from the Justice Department. Trump is also under indictment in three other cases — two federal cases related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his retaining of classified documents after leaving office and another case in Georgia related to his attempts to change the 2020 election results in Fulton County.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan scheduled Trump’s sentencing for July 11 — just days before the Republican National Convention where Trump is expected to receive the party’s formal nomination.

President Joe Biden’s campaign heralded the decision as demonstrating that “no one is above the law” but still called on voters to show up in November to keep Trump from a second term. Trump could legally run for president even if he was incarcerated.

“The threat Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater. He is running an increasingly unhinged campaign of revenge and retribution, pledging to be a dictator ‘on day one’ and calling for our Constitution to be ‘terminated’ so he can regain and keep power. A second Trump term means chaos, ripping away Americans’ freedoms and fomenting political violence – and the American people will reject it this November,” the Biden campaign said in a statement.

Despite considerable fractures among Texas Republicans in the past year, the state’s Republicans have remained consistent in their defense of Trump through his legal woes. They have rallied to his side through the FBI search on his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida and stood by him through his indictments.

The New York trial ballooned into a cause-celebre for the political right. Trump’s Texan allies traveled to New York to support him during the trial, including Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton has been floated as a potential pick to be U.S. attorney general in a second Trump administration. He led a lawsuit challenging other states’ election results in 2020 and has sued the Biden administration numerous times to stop its policies on issues ranging from immigration to gender.

“From the beginning of this sham trial, I stood by President Trump, and my support for him is stronger than ever. As Attorney General of Texas, I will unleash every tool at my disposal to fight this blatant corruption and political persecution spewing from New York and the Biden administration,” Paxton said on social media.

Paxton himself had faced an indictment over alleged securities fraud. The case was dropped in March.

The support for Trump on Thursday covered much of the Republican Party’s political spectrum. Sen. John Cornyn, who has publicly clashed with Paxton and previously expressed doubts about Trump’s electability to a second term, called on his Republican peers to defend Trump.

“This verdict is a disgrace, and this trial should have never happened. Now more than ever, we need to rally around @realdonaldtrump, take back the White House and Senate, and get this country back on track,” Cornyn posted on social media. “The real verdict will be Election Day.”

Cornyn endorsed Trump for president in January. Cornyn is running to lead the Senate Republican Conference once the current leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, steps down.

Sen. Ted Cruz also defended Trump, calling the trial “political persecution.”

“This is a dark day for America,” Cruz said on social media. “The only reason they prosecuted Donald Trump is because Democrats are terrified that he will win reelection. This disgraceful decision is legally baseless and should be overturned promptly on appeal. Any judge with a modicum of integrity would recognize that this entire trial has been utterly fraudulent.”

Republicans have repeatedly blasted Trump’s legal woes as politically motivated, and Cruz has been one of the most vocal proponents. He published a book in 2022 titled “Justice Corrupted: How the Left Weaponized Our Legal System,” accusing liberal activists of using the justice system to silence dissent.

Other Trump allies took a similar tone. U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Sherman, accused Manhattan’s DA of working “to manipulate the legal process and ensure an unfair trial for President Trump.”

U.S. Rep. Wesley Hunt, a major Trump backer from Houston, said on social media: “Partisan actors and a judge who is a Biden donor acting in bad faith turned the American judicial system in New York into a firing squad to destroy Joe Biden’s top political opponent.”

“This is ELECTION INTERFERENCE at the highest level!!” U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, who previously served as Trump’s White House doctor, said on social media.

The Texas Republican Party also called the trial a “kangaroo court” in a statement, adding: “Everything they are doing to President Trump, they will do to you next. November 5th is our last chance to save America.”

We’ve added new speakers to the stellar lineup of leaders, lawmakers and newsmakers hitting the stage at The Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 5–7 in downtown Austin. Get an up-close look at today’s biggest issues at Texas’ breakout politics and policy event!