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Top One Magazine

The Scramble to Suck Up to Trump

After sitting in court listening to witness after witness testify to his alleged misdeeds, several weeks ago former President Donald Trump began grousing about his lack of support outside the courtroom. Almost immediately, a steady stream of friends, advisers and Republican elected officials from across the nation started to trickle in.

Over the past two weeks, it’s turned into a cavalcade of defenders, with almost everyone who’s anyone in contemporary Republican politics making the pilgrimage to Manhattan to kiss the ring and complain to television cameras about the unfairness of the proceedings.

They’re there in part to say what Trump can’t, due to his gag order — a series of talking points which include but aren’t limited to: Justice Juan Merchan’s daughter’s political leanings, the problem with the liberal New York jury pool, the character of various witnesses and prosecutor Susan Hoffinger’s donations to President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.

The trip to the Manhattan courthouse has become a MAGA acid test, but also a window into how to get ahead in the Trump-era Republican Party.

In one theatrical measure of the raw ambition on display, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) became the first Republican member of Congress to show up in support of Trump. Scott, who’s up for reelection this year, drove with Trump from Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue down to the courthouse in Lower Manhattan, then sat in the front row of the courtroom before departing to speak to the cameras.

Two weeks later, he announced his plan to run for Senate Republican leader — and his case for being selected is largely based on having Trump’s ear.

The following week saw a House Freedom Caucus road trip to Manhattan. There, nearly a dozen of the thirstiest and most contentious members in the House — including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who’s scrambling to win the GOP primary in a new House district — railed against the trial from across the street, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

Gaetz, the tormenter of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who’s said to be eyeing a gubernatorial bid in 2026, blasted the charges as “the Mr. Potato Head doll of crimes, where they had to stick together a bunch of things that did not belong together.”

Days earlier, House Speaker Mike Johnson, who’s been working on building his relationship with Trump in advance of the possibility the former president returns to office, appeared on the scene.

A trial surrounding hush money payments made to a porn star seems like an unlikely place for the  government’s most powerful evangelical Christian to station himself — especially since Johnson once asserted that Trump “lacks the character and the moral center we desperately need again in the White House.”

But Johnson, who’s been fending off an ouster attempt from the right, made clear he thought it was important to appear in support of “a friend.”

“I wanted to be here myself and call out what is a travesty of justice.” he said, roughly one week after Trump publicly urged Republicans to unite behind Johnson and helped extinguish the threat to his speakership.

To some degree, the blocks outside of 10 Centre Street have become something akin to Trump’s famous boardroom in “The Apprentice.” Vice presidential hopefuls including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds and Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance have all traveled far from their home states to pay homage to Trump, aiming to get in his good graces.

If Trump is in fact found guilty next week, Merchan is not required to send him to prison; most first-time, non-violent crime offenders end up with probation or a fine instead. In any case, Trump would be sure to appeal. So, very soon, he’ll be free from the Manhattan courthouse with which he has so many complaints.

The former president has made clear he’s paying attention to the loyalists who serve in his Manhattan vanguard and appreciates their service. “I do have a lot of surrogates and they are speaking very beautifully,” Trump said on Tuesday. “They come from all over Washington, and they’re highly respected and they think this is the biggest scam they’ve ever seen.”

They also appear to think it’s the biggest opportunity.

This article first appeared in POLITICO Nightly.

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Author: POLITICO