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Missouri Republicans say Trump's conviction is a 'sham.' Democrats call it a 'victory for justice'

Former President Donald Trump speaks on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at a “Save America!” Rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Former President Donald Trump speaks on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at a “Save America!” Rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon, Ill.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a GOP candidate for governor and the official who oversees Missouri elections, claimed "the democrats are trying to steal another election.” U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, said that nobody is "above accountability."

Reactions by Missouri politicians to the felony conviction Thursday of former President Donald Trump fell predictably along partisan lines, with Republicans condemning the verdict and Democrats expressing satisfaction or trolling their partisan foes.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, blamed President Joe Biden for the state of New York’s prosecution of Trump for hush money payments to a porn star to keep the story of their sexual liaison private.

“Joe Biden has weaponized the justice system to go after one of the greatest Presidents in our history,” Ashcroft wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The democrats are trying to steal another election.”

Ashcroft’s statement echoed Trump’s false claim that he won the 2020 election over Biden.

New York state prosecutors charged 34 felonies against the former president for each of the 11 invoices, 11 checks, and 12 ledger entries tied to reimbursing his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Cohen, often referred to as Trump’s former “fixer,” said during trial testimony that he wired $130,000 to adult film star and director Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election to silence her about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

The two other Republicans running for governor who are registering in primary polls also used social media to proclaim their loyalty to Trump.

“This entire trial was a political stunt and a complete weaponization of our judicial system,” Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe wrote on his X account.

State Sen. Bill Eigel posted a video on his X account accompanied by text saying: “RIGGED! This is a disgraceful sham. I stand 100%” with Trump.

Missouri solidly backed Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, giving him almost 57% of the vote in both years. His endorsement was aggressively sought by candidates in the 2022 Republican U.S. Senate primary, but he withheld any preference until the day before the election and then put out a vague statement that did not specify a single candidate.

Trump has all the votes in Missouri’s delegation to the Republican National Convention, set for July in Milwaukee, which is expected to nominate him for a third run for the White House.

On the Democratic side, glee was suppressed by those who were moved to comment.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, said in a statement from his office that the conviction was not something to celebrate. It shows the strength of the American justice system, he said.

“Today is a victory for justice and the rule of law,” Cleaver said. “Just as every American is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, we are equally guaranteed that no individual, including a former president, is above accountability.”

State Rep. Doug Mann of Columbia noted the historic nature of the event – Trump is the first former president to be convicted of a felony after leaving office – and then considered the political impact:

“Will this affect the campaign?,” he wrote on X. “Likely not, but it is good to see the judicial system work and see powerful people held accountable for their misdeeds”

Democratic state Rep. Keri Ingle, a Lee’s Summit Democrat, didn’t directly comment on the verdict, instead relying on snark to express her feelings.

“So, anything interesting happen today?” Ingle wrote on X.

From Washington, U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Eric Schmitt, both Republicans, expressed their support for Trump.

In one post, Hawley joined Ashcroft in blaming the prosecution on Biden. In a separate post, Hawley attacked the proceedings in New York City.

“This ‘trial’ has been from beginning to end a complete and total sham, a mockery of the criminal justice system, and one of the most dangerous abuses of our political process in American history,” Hawley wrote.

Schmitt compared the trial to the staged proceedings in the Soviet Union used by Communist dictator Josef Stalin to cement his power in the 1930s.

“The American people will reject this unprecedented lawfare in November,” Schmitt wrote.

State Rep. Sarah Unsicker, a Shrewsbury Democrat, shot back at Schmitt that he was just making things up.

“That’s a conclusion with no supporting evidence,” Unsicker wrote. “Too many Missourians know what a Soviet-style show trial is like, from their own experiences. And you’ve done nothing to correct that.”

Other Republicans weighing in reflected the comments of the party leaders.

State Sen. Holly Rehder, a candidate for lieutenant governor, said in a statement that the case was brought in a “biased system manipulated by those who fear the power and influence of the MAGA movement.”

Attorney General Andrew Bailey called the outcome an “illegal conviction” and predicted “Americans will overwhelmingly reelect President Trump in November.

Annelise Hanshaw contributed to this report. This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature for the Missouri Independent.
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