WASHINGTON — The race for the White House took a surreal turn this week as GOP hopefuls took a debate stage Wednesday and former President Donald Trump surrendered at an Atlanta jail the next day on charges that he broke the law in trying to try to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump, who declined to participate in the first Republican presidential primary debate, held in Milwaukee on Wednesday, is facing 13 counts in the Georgia case, including violating the state’s racketeering act, and conspiring to file false documents. He has denied any wrongdoing and described the investigation, as well as three others that have resulted in a total of 91 indictments, as “political witch hunts.”
“What has taken place here is a travesty of justice,” Trump told reporters as he boarded a private plane to leave Atlanta. “We did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.”
Trump was released on a $200,000 consent bond order and signed the document outlining his release conditions. He is expected to be arraigned in the following weeks and will likely have to return to Atlanta.
Trump’s surrender followed that of his allies and lieutenants this week, including former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. In all, 19 people have been charged in the Georgia case.
Although he has had to turn himself in to court authorities three times before this year, this was the first time Trump was booked in a jail, a Fulton County facility that is notorious for for allegations of unsanitary and unsafe conditions. But Trump only spent about 20 minutes there. He was fingerprinted, had his mug shot taken and was assigned an identification number, P01135809.
The booking record listed the former president as having “blond or strawberry” hair, a height of 6 feet 3 inches and a weight of 215 pounds. That’s about 24 pounds less than the White House doctor reported Trump weighing in 2018.
Tina Smith slams GOP White House hopefuls
Despite his legal troubles, Trump continues to command the fealty of most of the Republicans who are challenging him. All but two of the eight Republicans on the debate stage, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, indicated they would support Trump as the GOP nominee, even if the former president were convicted of a felony.
The debaters attacked each other and President Biden and struggled with many policy questions. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was among those voicing support for a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy saying, “We can’t leave it to Illinois. We can’t leave it to Minnesota.”
The right to an abortion in Minnesota is protected in the state’s constitution. Democratic Sen. Tina Smith immediately responded on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“When Senator Scott says we can’t leave it up to Minnesota, he’s really saying that he thinks he knows how to make personal health care decisions better than women whose lives and stories he’ll never know,” she said.
Smith, a former Planned Parenthood executive, also participated in a Biden campaign event the day before the debate to slam the GOP presidential candidates.
“The reality is that none of these candidates trust women to make these decisions for themselves because they believe that they know better, and that is why we can’t trust them to be president,” Smith said.
The Minnesota senator also said “these candidates are completely out of touch with American voters who strongly support abortion rights.”
The abortion issue is tricky for the GOP presidential candidates. While taking a hard pro-life stance may help them in the Republican primaries, which attract the most conservative of voters, the support of independents and more moderate Republicans will be needed in the general election.
That may be why former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley modified her position during the debate, saying the focus should be on the availability of contraceptives; and another red state governor on the debate stage, North Dakota’s Doug Burgum, who signed a six-week ban in his own state, said he is against federal legislation.
“The feds are stepping into people’s lives and stepping into people’s businesses over and over,” Burgum said. “If we say the fed should be in this, where do we stop?”
Burgum showed up to the debate on crutches after tearing his Achilles tendon the night before playing basketball with friends and his son.
Instead of attending the debate, Trump sat down for an interview with former FOX News host Tucker Carlson that was posted on X. Carlson asked Trump if the nation was headed towards civil war.
“There’s a level of passion that I’ve never seen, there’s a level of hatred that I’ve never seen, and that’s probably a bad combination,” the former president said.
Ilhan Omar criticized for Qatar trip
As many lawmakers are spending their summer break on privately funded trips, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, was targeted in a story by Jewish Insider for attending, along with a Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and a group of other Democratic U.S. House and U.S. Senate members, the opening match of the World Cup in Qatar last November.
A four-day trip to the Persian Gulf country was paid for by the Qatari government and taken under the auspices of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, or MECEA, which allows House members to accept trips funded by foreign governments provided that the travel is later disclosed in their annual financial reports.
Omar disclosed the trip in the report that was filed in May. It was not mentioned in a February story by MinnPost on privately funded congressional travel because, unlike other such travel, a trip taken under MECEA does not have to be approved by the House Ethics Committee and a post-travel form need not be filed.
The Jewish Insider story insinuated that Omar, then a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was a hypocrite for criticizing Israeli influence on American politics while accepting a trip, whose cost has not been disclosed, from Qatar, a country that also lobbies U.S. lawmakers.
“Rep. Omar attended a delegation to Qatar with over a dozen members of Congress, including Democrats and Republicans, and disclosed the travel as required,” said Omar spokesman Jeremy Slevin in a statement. “She remains committed to upholding human rights and the rule of law around the world, and also to direct engagement with the regimes responsible for human rights abuses. That includes accountability for the vile labor practices and mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar.”