ORLANDO, Florida — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy urged calm Sunday and said Americans should not protest if former President Donald Trump is indicted and arrested in a hush-money investigation in New York, contradicting Trump, who called on his supporters Saturday to “Protest, take our nation back!”
“I don’t think people should protest this, no. And I think President Trump, if you talk to him, he doesn’t believe that, either,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said in response to a question from NBC News during House Republicans’ retreat in Orlando.
He said later: “Nobody should harm one another … We want calmness out there.”
But during the same news conference, McCarthy gave a full-throated defense of Trump, dismissing New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation as politically motivated and saying he’s uninterested in cracking down on rising crime in New York City.
“Lawyer after lawyer will tell you this is the weakest case out there, trying to make a misdemeanor a felony,” said McCarthy, flanked by members of his leadership team in an outdoor courtyard at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes.
“The last thing we want … is somebody putting their thumb on the scale [of justice] simply because they don’t agree with somebody else’s political view,” McCarthy added. “That is what’s wrong, and that’s what infuriates people. And this will not hold up in court if this is what he wants to do.”
Trump said Saturday on his social media platform Truth Social, that “illegal leaks” from Bragg to the media suggest that he, “the far & away leading candidate” for president, will be arrested Tuesday, and he called for his supporters to protest.
Bragg has been investigating allegations that Trump made a hush-money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels during his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. Multiple sources said last week that law enforcement agencies in New York were preparing for a possible Trump indictment as soon as this week.
On Saturday, McCarthy took to Twitter to announce he was directing GOP-led House committees to launch investigations into whether any federal funding was being used to support Bragg’s probe and “subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions.”
A day later in Orlando, McCarthy reiterated his pledge to investigate, saying he had already spoken to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who also leads the select subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
“This applies directly to that,” McCarthy told reporters. “I think you’ll see actions from him.”
Asked if Trump should still run for president even if he’s ultimately convicted, McCarthy punted to the nation’s founders.
“The Constitution allows him to,” he said. “He has a constitutional right to run.”
After McCarthy’s news conference, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a top Trump ally, said people have the constitutional right to peacefully protest. But she joined McCarthy in urging Trump supporters not to protest an indictment, saying they should instead join Trump at a March 25 rally in Waco, Texas.
“I’m planning to go; I can’t wait to go down there. I’m not going to New York. I’m going to go to Waco, Texas, and I’m going to join up with a bunch of people that support President Trump,” Greene told reporters.
“Because Save America rallies are like a great, big love fest. We’re all just saying how much we love America and President Trump. I don’t need to protest.”
Scott Wong is a senior congressional reporter for NBC News.