WASHINGTON -- Members of Arkansas' congressional delegation have denounced Manhattan's district attorney following a grand jury's decision to indict former President Donald Trump over hush money payments.
Arkansas' federal lawmakers criticized the prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, after the indictment, with legislators contending Bragg was "setting a dangerous precedent" by bringing the charges against Trump.
While the findings remain sealed, the announcement follows a grand jury inquiry into payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to cover up a sexual relationship with porn actor Stormy Daniels. The timing comes amid Trump's pursuit of a second term in the White House.
Trump, the first former president to face an indictment, described the matter as "political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history."
The all-Republican delegation's responses shared a similar argument: the indictment is politically motivated.
"The District Attorney of a city in the midst of a violent crime spree is brazenly pursuing criminal charges against a former President, setting a dangerous precedent that our country has purposefully avoided until now," Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro said hours after the news broke Thursday.
"This indictment fulfills the campaign pledge of Democrat Alvin Bragg, a George Soros-backed public official. Far left partisans using cooked up charges to lock up their political opponents is a practice of banana republics, not freedom loving nations. These tactics have no place in America."
Bragg began serving as Manhattan's district attorney in January 2022, becoming the first Black district attorney in the office's history. Shortly after becoming district attorney, Bragg announced his office would focus less on minor offenses and invest more in diversion efforts and incarceration alternatives. He also inherited the yearslong Trump investigation.
Soros is a billionaire who has donated to progressive candidates and political causes, making him a regular target of conservative attacks.
"Regardless of political affiliation, it's not hard to recognize the partisan intent of the New York indictment," Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Rogers, said Friday.
"Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg ran for office on a pledge to indict the former president, and his predecessor and federal prosecutors already investigated this issue, which resulted without charges."
Womack said the indictment "opens a new era in political warfare that has no place in our country."
"Congress will investigate the conduct of the Manhattan D.A.'s office to determine if the indictment was justified and not partisan weaponization," he added.
House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has promised action against Bragg to hold the district attorney's office with its "unprecedented abuse of power" accountable.
"With the statute of limitations appearing to have expired years ago, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's indictment of former President Trump seems on its face to be a political gotcha game, and such weaponization of our justice system stands to set an unprecedented and dangerous standard and hurts the faith Americans have in our justice system," Rep. French Hill, a Republican from Little Rock, said Friday in a statement.
A spokesperson for Rep. Bruce Westerman, a Hot Springs Republican, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Friday the congressman would not release a statement on the indictment.
Sen. Tom Cotton of Little Rock said the indictment "should not be taken lightly."
"Never before in American history has the party in power targeted a former president with criminal charges," the Republican senator said Friday.
"But the left-wing prosecutor in New York City reportedly has charged President Trump with a convoluted legal theory already rejected by his predecessor and the Department of Justice. I hope that the courts dismiss the indictment as a matter of law, and I urge the prosecutors pursuing President Trump to carefully consider the harm caused to our republic if flimsy charges against former presidents become a new common practice in our politics."
The indictment was mentioned in a fundraising email quoting Cotton sent Friday afternoon. Friday marked the final day of the fundraising quarter covering the first three months of 2023.
"Friend, the left is unhinged and intentionally trying to rip our country apart. That's just the truth. The indictment of President Trump is the latest example. There are many others," Cotton said in the email.
"They want violent criminals released onto our streets. They want our border wide open for illegal immigrants. They want TikTok to continue poisoning our kids. For all of these reasons -- and more -- we must defeat the left. With our fundraising deadline a few short hours away, today is about sending a message."
Sen. John Boozman of Rogers issued a statement Friday afternoon criticizing the indictment. Boozman won a third Senate term last fall; Trump endorsed Boozman in last year's Republican primary in which Boozman faced challengers from the right.
"Using the justice system to target political opponents is un-American and sets a very troubling precedent," the senator said. "I think the priorities of the New York prosecutor, on whose watch violent crime has surged, are misplaced."
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump's former press secretary, issued a tweet Thursday evening calling for Bragg's resignation.
"Americans should stand united in opposition to the Democrats' politicization of our justice system and refusal to lock up violent criminals in favor of prosecuting their political opponent," she added.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson struck a different tone. He called on Trump to leave the 2024 presidential contest because of the indictment. Hutchinson -- another Republican who is weighing a possible White House bid of his own -- has frequently criticized Trump, calling the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol a disqualifying item against the former president.
"It is a distraction," the former governor told Fox Business on Friday. "It is not a good day for America, but the system has to play out here. We have to have confidence it can."