WASHINGTON - Reaction to the indictment of Donald Trump, the first of a former U.S. president, was predictable in the hothouse of divisive American politics. His fellow Republicans assailed the prosecutor for what they claimed was a purely partisan attack, while Democrats contended that no one should be allowed to stand above the law.
Even Republicans eyeing a 2024 run against Trump for the party's presidential nomination came to his defense after a New York grand jury indicted Trump on charges linked to his $130,000 hush money payment in 2016 to an adult film actress to silence her about an alleged affair she claimed to have had with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has long denied the claim by the porn star, Stormy Daniels.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has not announced a 2024 presidential bid but nationally polls second behind Trump for the nomination, on Twitter accused New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, of deploying the legal system "to advance a political agenda" that he said "turns the rule of law on its head."
DeSantis said he would not work with New York officials to extradite Trump from Florida to face the charges, although it may not be an issue in any event. Trump's lawyer has said the former president would fly to New York to turn himself in.
Nikki Haley, Trump's former ambassador to the United Nations who has announced her 2024 run for the presidency, said of the indictment, "This is more about revenge than it is justice."
Mike Pompeo, a secretary of state during Trump's administration and another possible presidential contender, accused the prosecutor of "playing politics."
South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, yet another possible candidate, said in a statement, "This pro-criminal New York DA has failed to uphold the law for violent criminals, yet weaponized the law against political enemies. This is a travesty, and it should not be happening in the greatest country on Earth."
A giant sign is seen displayed outside Manhattan Criminal Court after former President Donald Trump's indictment by a grand jury in New York, March 30, 2023.
Longtime Democratic foes of Trump took a different tack, saying no one should be able to escape prosecution if wrongdoing was alleged but should have their day in court to answer the charges.
Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote on Twitter, "The Grand Jury has acted upon the facts and the law. No one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence."
"Hopefully, the former President will peacefully respect the system, which grants him that right," she added.
The Democratic Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said in a statement: "Mr. Trump is subject to the same laws as every American. He will be able to avail himself of the legal system and a jury, not politics, to determine his fate according to the facts and the law. There should be no outside political influence, intimidation or interference in the case. I encourage both Mr. Trump's critics and supporters to let the process proceed peacefully and according to the law."
Reactions to the news on the streets of New York were mixed.
"Finally. He should have been indicted on a million things and he he's finally being indicted on something. It's about time!" said New York resident Caroline.
Another New York resident named Oscar said he believes the indictment will help Trump's reelection bid. "This is probably what they want - the Trump campaign wants this. It's free marketing. He's going to be out there. If he wins - hey, I won! Vote for me!"
James, from Connecticut, said he believes the indictment strengthens the rule of law. "I think that this indictment shows that we live in a civil society and that nobody is above the law. And hopefully, if he did commit crimes, then he'll be held accountable for that."
Steve, a Chicago resident, had a different point of view. "I think it's a silly charge. America can spend more time on more important things than chasing a rat around the kitchen that ... really he is not a rat he's actually a person who has done a tremendous amount for this country."
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press.