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House Republicans jump to Donald Trump's defense after he says he's target of Jan. 6 probe

Trump says he got target letter over Jan. 6
Trump says he received target letter in Jan. 6 probe 06:33

Washington — Congressional Republicans were quick to defend former President Donald Trump on Tuesday after he revealed he received a letter informing him that he is a target of a federal probe into efforts to prevent the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election.

GOP House leaders repeated familiar refrains about the investigations involving Trump overseen by special counsel Jack Smith, claiming that the Justice Department is pursuing politically charged probes in an effort to damage the former president, who is currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

"I guess under a Biden administration, Biden's America, you'd expect this," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters of the target letter Trump received. "If you notice, recently President Trump went up in the polls and was actually surpassing President Biden for reelection. So what do they do now? Weaponize government, go after their number one opponent. It's time and time again."

Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, said the latest development is "another example of Joe Biden's weaponized Department of Justice targeting his top political opponent, Donald Trump."

One of Trump's most vocal defenders in Congress, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, called the so-called target letter sent to the former president "absolute bulls***."

"This is the only way that the Democrats have to beat President Trump, is to arrest him, smear him, charge him with ridiculous charges," the congresswoman said. 

Trump revealed in a post on his social media platform Truth Social that he received a letter on Sunday notifying him he is the target of a federal grand jury investigation into efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. The former president said he was given four days to appear before the grand jury. 

He has not been charged as part of Smith's investigation, and it's unclear what specific crimes he may be charged with. 

Appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November, Smith has been investigating attempts to thwart the peaceful transfer of power or the certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump's supporters breached the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from reaffirming Mr. Biden's victory.

The investigation into the events surrounding the Jan. 6 assault is the second involving Trump that Smith is overseeing. The former president was indicted last month on charges stemming from the special counsel's probe into his handling of sensitive government documents and faces 37 felony counts. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

While some House Republicans rushed to Trump's defense, two of his opponents seeking the GOP presidential nomination indicated it's time for the party to move on from the former president.

"I have said from the beginning that Donald Trump's actions on January 6 should disqualify him from ever being president again," former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.

Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor, congressman and Arkansas governor, said he believes Trump should suspend his campaign and called it "disappointing" that he refuses to bow out of the 2024 race.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration and was the governor of South Carolina, reiterated that it's time for a "new generational leader."

"The rest of this primary election is going to be in reference to Trump. It's going to be about lawsuits, it's going to be about legal fees, it's going to be about judges, and it's just going to continue to be a further and further distraction," Haley told Fox News in an interview, adding, "We can't keep dealing with this drama. We can't keep dealing with the negativity."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump's chief rival, said there has been a "politicization" of the FBI and Justice Department, as well as an "attempt to criminalize politics and to try to criminalize differences." But he also criticized Trump for his response to the Jan. 6 assault.

"There's a difference between being brought up on criminal charges and doing things like, for example, I think it was shown how he was in the White House and didn't do anything while things were going on," DeSantis said of Trump during a campaign event in South Carolina. "He should have come out more forcefully, of course, that but to try to criminalize that, that's a different issue entirely."

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is also seeking the Republican presidential nomination, said in a pair of tweets that he wants to see the potential indictment before commenting on the case against Trump, but condemned his behavior on Jan. 6 as proof "he doesn't care about our country & our Constitution."

"He lost the election & instead of accepting it he tried to overturn the election, undermine democracy & provoked Jan 6. His lies have consequences. They lost us the midterms and will lose us 2024," he tweeted.

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