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Matt Gaetz and other Republicans head to Trump trial

The House was in session at the Capitol on Thursday, but thanks to the latest procession of Republicans showing up in a Manhattan criminal court to show support for former President Donald J. Trump during his trial, the party risked ceding its control of the floor.

Nearly a dozen House Republicans showed up at the courthouse Thursday, including far-right agitators like Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida; Anna Paulina Luna of Florida; Lauren Boebert of Colorado; and Bob Good of Virginia. They said they were there to speak for Mr. Trump because a silence had prevented him from speaking for himself.

“We are here of our own free will, because there are things we can say that President Trump is unfairly not allowed to say,” Mr. Gaetz said at a news conference outside the courthouse . He said the former president was being tried for a “made-up crime” that he called “Mr. Potato Head’s crime ring” — made up of unrelated elements clumsily stuck together. .

Mr. Good said the trial was an example of Democrats trying to “rig” the presidential election against Mr. Trump. After Ms. Luna sat down in the courtroom, she came out to declare, “The president is doing well. He is in a good mood.

Republicans control the House by such a slim margin, 217 to 213, that just two defections can defeat legislation if all members are present and voting — and just a few absences can erase their majority entirely. The show of support for Mr. Trump from such a large group of members means that for much of Thursday, the Republican Party may have ceded the floor to Democrats, leaving itself exposed.

House Republicans had planned a vote Thursday afternoon to reprimand President Biden for his decision to suspend arms shipments to Israel and force his administration to quickly deliver weapons.

The bill aimed to divide Democrats and embarrass Mr. Biden, and had no chance of passing the Senate or becoming law. But with so many off-campus Republicans demonstrating their loyalty to Mr. Trump, they left open the possibility that the party’s messaging bill would be defeated. House Democratic leaders had advised their members to vote “no,” calling the measure “another partisan stunt by extreme MAGA Republicans who are determined to politically harm President Biden.”

The group that showed up in Manhattan on Thursday was made up of lawmakers who rarely hesitate to disrupt legislative proceedings at the Capitol or embarrass the party in the House. It included many of the same House Freedom Caucus rebels who froze the chamber for days, voting against their party’s own rules as an act of protest.

Paul Kane, journalist at the Washington Post, published on social networks that the large number of Republican absences could allow Democrats to “take a few detours,” such as calling a motion to adjourn and close the chamber entirely.

House Democrats have worked to present themselves to voters as the “adults in the room” dedicated to governing, and as of midday Thursday, no such stunt had been made, nor were there plans to ‘make one. But Mr. Kane’s post was making the rounds among Democratic aides, who admitted the idea was tempting.

Top Republicans in Congress have been making the pilgrimage to Mr. Trump’s criminal trial for days: Senator JD Vance, Republican of Ohio and potential Trump running mate, was the first to launch the new hearing strategy. Other lawmakers who wish to attach themselves to Mr. Trump for their own survival or political advancement have followed.

Mike Johnson, the Speaker of the House, was in attendance Tuesday. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, made an appearance Monday.

As of Thursday, top Republicans had already changed at least one item on the House schedule to accommodate the GOP school visit. The Oversight Committee postponed a meeting scheduled for Thursday morning to vote on whether to detain Merrick B. Garland, the attorney general, for contempt of Congress, rescheduling it for 8 p.m.

With five of the panel members — Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Michael Cloud of Texas, Mike Waltz of Florida, Ms. Boebert and Ms. Luna — in Manhattan, the GOP had to delay the vote until it had enough members in Washington to prevail.

Nathan Schweber reports contributed.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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