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House Speaker Mike Johnson defends Trump outside New York trial in GOP show of support

Trump trial analysis after Cohen testimony
Trump trial analysis after testimony from key witness Michael Cohen 03:32

Washington — House Speaker Mike Johnson joined Donald Trump at a Manhattan courthouse on Tuesday to express support for the former president amid his criminal trial, which the speaker called a "sham" and part of a broader "partisan witch hunt" against Trump.

"President Trump is innocent of these charges," Johnson said, speaking outside the courthouse as proceedings got underway inside.

The Louisiana Republican was the latest in a number of GOP members of Congress who have shown their support for the former president at his New York trial in recent days. He said he came on his own accord to support Trump, whom he called a friend. Several other lawmakers also attended.

The speaker has emphasized his closeness to Trump in recent weeks as he faced a challenge to his speakership from a handful of conservatives within his conference. And the former president came to his aid when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene brought up a snap vote to oust Johnson, offering his support for the speaker in a social media post.

Johnson claimed on Tuesday that the trial is meant to "keep him [Trump] off the campaign trial." He said that as a former litigator, he's "disgusted" by what is happening to Trump.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy listen as former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on May 14, 2024.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy listen as former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on May 14, 2024.  MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

"The people are losing faith right now in this country, in our institutions," he said. "They're losing faith in our system of justice. And the reason for that is because they see it being abused as it is being done here in New York."

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to reimbursements for a "hush money" payment to an adult film star before the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty.

The speaker argued that the charges were intentionally brought ahead of Trump's campaign to return to office, calling the effort a "ridiculous persecution that is not about justice" but "all about politics."

"It's impossible for anybody to deny that looks at this objectively that the judicial system in our country has been weaponized against President Trump," Johnson said.

The remarks marked a stunning moment with the House speaker, who's second in line to the presidency, calling the integrity of the judicial system into question.

Along with Johnson, Gov. Doug Burgum, Vivek Ramaswamy and Reps. Byron Donalds and Cory Mills of Florida were also in attendance on Tuesday.

"I do have a lot of surrogates and they are speaking very beautifully," Trump said Tuesday morning before entering the courtroom. "They come from all over Washington, and they're highly respected and they think this is the biggest scam they've ever seen."

Fin Gómez, Olivia Rinaldi and Kelsey Walsh contributed reporting.

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