WASHINGTON – Few have seen the historic actual indictment of former President Donald Trump, but that did not stop politicians from reacting along party lines.
Republicans, for the most part, avoided speaking on why a grand jury voted to indict Trump. That indictment has been sealed, so specific charges have not been made public, but is believed to involve a payoff made before the 2016 presidential election to Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, to keep her from disclosing an alleged affair she said she had with Trump.
Congressional Republicans echoed Trump’s claims that he is the victim of political persecution led by New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
“It’s a sad state of affairs when socialist DA’s would rather pursue a politically motivated witch hunt against President Donald Trump than crack down on violent crime. The American people won’t forget,” Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, said in a tweet.
Democrats, meanwhile, stressed that the indictment the result of a system of justice that aims to treat all equally.
“No one is above the law – not even a current or former president,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th District, in a statement. “It is important that in our society, the legal system holds people accountable for crimes committed. No exception should be given for a twice-impeached former president – to do so would undermine the rule of law and our democracy.”
While Trump has called for his supporters to protest his indictment, some Democrats called for calm.
“Every American plays a critical role in the preservation of our democracy and the safety of our communities, and I strongly urge anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in response to this announcement to do so peacefully,” said Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd District, in a statement.
Meanwhile Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, told Axios there are “going to be dangerous days ahead.”
Trump is expected to appear in court for an arraignment on Tuesday.
Phillips breaks with Dems on guns
Congress broke out in partisan discord over guns, as it has with increasing frequency in the aftermath of every horrific mass shooting in the nation.
U.S. House Democrats quickly moved to call for the reinstatement of a federal ban on assault styled weapons like the AR-15 that killed three nine-year old students and three educators at private school in Nashville this week.
“They are not being used to hunt deer, they are being used to hunt human beings,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said at a press conference on the U.S. Capitol steps.
Like Jeffries, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, demanded Republicans move on new gun control regulations at that press conference; something GOP lawmakers say they won’t do.
“Why is it that, as a mom in the United States, I have to worry every single day whether my 10-year-old daughter will be shot in the classroom, the same way I worried about my safety when I lived in a war zone,” said Omar, a Somali refugee.
Rep. Dean Phillips,D-3rd District, however, broke with most of Democratic colleagues in advocating for armed guards in schools, something some Republican lawmakers say is the solution to keeping children safe in the nation’s schools.
“I might be an outlier on this as a Democrat, but in the near term, I’m becoming of the opinion that we must ensure that there is an armed security officer at every school possible in America right now,” Phillips said in an interview aired by Minnesota Public Radio. “It is one of the few actionable, bipartisan – I’d like to think – measures we can take in the near term to at least provide a modicum of safety to our children.”
The shooter in Nashville, Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, had been diagnosed with an emotional disorder and her arsenal of weapons had concerned her parents.
After the mass shooting in a grade school in Uvalde, Texas last year, Congress approved a few, very modest, new laws aimed at curbing gun violence, including one that provides states new incentives to adopt “red flag” laws that would allow courts and law enforcement to temporarily remove weapons from those deemed by family members or friends to be a danger to themselves or others.
There’s no realistic expectation Congress will do anything more on gun safety. So it’s up to the states to decide whether they want to strengthen gun restrictions.
After the 2018 Parkland shooting, 18 states and the District of Columbia implemented red flag laws. But Tennessee did not. Nor did Minnesota.
DFL leaders in Minnesota’s state legislature are hoping to pass a red flag law, but prospects are uncertain since the party has such a slim, one-vote majority in the state Senate.
In defense of TikTok
Rep. Ilhan Omar has emerged as a leader of the lawmakers defending TikTok. The popular social media platform has faced mounting scrutiny on Capitol Hill after revelations that its parent, ByteDance, a technology company headquartered in Beijing, tracked the location of U.S. citizens.
There is bipartisan legislation that would ban TikTok or severely limit its use. Another bill would allow the Biden administration to sanction Chinese companies that transfer sensitive personal data.
But Omar, and other progressive lawmakers – as well as some of the most conservative members of Congress – have come out against legislation targeting TikTok. Omar said she is “opposed to efforts by some Republicans and Democrats to unilaterally ban an entire social media platform” for various reasons.
“First of all, I don’t like censorship,” Omar said in a statement.
She said TikTok should not be singled out, but that Congress should create standards and regulations around data harvesting and privacy violations across social media companies. She also said TikTok is not the only social media platform that can be used for propaganda and hate speech, and that other platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, “ have all been used by foreign adversaries for disinformation campaigns targeting U.S. citizens.”
“Lastly, there are legitimate concerns about the Chinese government – including their brutal repression of the Uyghur people and their suppression of basic rights of freedom of expression in their country,” Omar said. “But banning one social media company based in China will not solve those problems. The American model rests on our protection of those freedoms – the ability to speak publicly against the government, or if you choose, to share a 10 second video cooking your favorite meal. That is the beauty of our democracy and our constitution. That is what sets us apart from authoritarian regimes like China. And that is the example we should set for the world.”
This and that
The House on Thursday approved a wide-ranging energy bill promoted by Republicans that would reverse some of President Biden’s climate initiatives and includes legislation sponsored by Rep. Pete Stauber, R-8th District, that would speed federal permitting of mining operations.
Every Minnesota Republican voted for the package and every Minnesota Democrat voted against it. Biden has threatened to veto the energy bill if it reaches his desk, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it “dead on arrival” in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Biden will tout his climate change initiatives during a visit to Minnesota on Monday that will focus on manufacturing. The president will visit the Cummins Power Generation Facility in Fridley, as part of his administration’s “Investing in America” tour.
The White House said that in October 2022, just two months after Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, Cummins announced it will begin manufacturing electrolyzers in the United States for the first time. Electrolyzers help produce clean hydrogen that is essential for reducing emissions.
Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation on the derailment of a train near Raymond, Minnesota, which erupted in flames and triggered an evacuation of residents living near the crash site. The train was carrying ethanol and corn syrup.
It will take the NTSB months to complete its investigation into the causes of the crash, but is likely to issue a preliminary report earlier than that. No injuries were reported in the crash and it’s unlikely the groundwater was contaminated.