CHICAGO — Politicians and elected officials from Chicagoland and Illinois are responding after former President Donald Trump was indicted in New York.
A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump on charges involving payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter, the first-ever criminal case against a former U.S. president and a jolt to Trump’s bid to retake the White House in 2024.
The indictment, confirmed Thursday by Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, and other people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss sealed criminal charges, is an extraordinary development after years of investigations into his business, political and personal dealings.
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly attacked the investigation as politically motivated, was expected to surrender to authorities next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss a matter that remained under seal.
On Thursday, lawyers for Trump said they will “vigorously fight” the indictment.
In a lengthy statement, Trump called the indictment “political persecution and election interference.”
“From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats – the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country – have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement,” Trump said.
What are Illinois politicians saying?
You can read the statements from politicians and elected officials from Chicagoland and Illinois below.
Editor’s Note: The statements are being added in no particular order.
U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-IL
“While there are many unknowns, we know a few things to be true: the Manhattan District Attorney must be allowed to continue his investigation without interference; any attempt to undermine this process is contrary to the rule of law; and political violence or threats of violence cannot be tolerated.
“As this process continues, former President Trump should be afforded the due process protections that he is guaranteed by our Constitution, just like any other American. But no one is above the law – not even a former president.”
Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas
“This unprecedented and historic news begins the process of proving once and for all that no one is above the law and everyone must be held accountable for their actions. A grand jury has reviewed the evidence and found that a crime was committed by a former President — that is unprecedented and must be taken seriously. Donald Trump repeatedly and shamelessly violated the rules and norms that govern the Office of the President, cheapening the most widely respected elected position in the world and demeaning our democracy. He must be held accountable and I’m grateful the first step towards justice has been taken.
“The threats of retribution and violence that have been made recently by Donald Trump are dangerous and irresponsible. Our nation is still grappling with the devastation of January 6th and just how close the peaceful transfer of power came to being cast aside, and we must always do whatever is necessary to protect the integrity of our democracy.“
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakwosky, D-Illinois 9
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Illinois 5
“No one is above the law, not even a former president.
“I spent more than half a decade in Congress as part of investigations into the crimes and misdeeds of Donald Trump. I am not surprised that the justice system has finally caught up with him. While the indictment of a former president is unprecedented, the historic nature of this moment matches the historic nature of Trump’s transgressions.
“Let us remember that Donald Trump is still under investigation for several other possible crimes, including some that were much more damaging to our national security and our democracy. He must be held accountable for his actions.”
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
In a tweet with a clip from The Celebrity Apprentice, Blagojevich responded to the news.
“President Trump FIRED me, FREED me, and now he’s getting F***ED like me. Weaponized prosecutors are destroying our country. It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to stand up and defend our Constitution against 3rd World politics.”
U.S. Rep. Chuy García, D-IL 4
García responded to the news in a tweet.
“Nobody is above the law.
“Former president Trump’s indictment is unprecedented, and so are his actions. Still, the former president’s crimes go far beyond what he has been indicted for today. His crimes—all of his crimes, including trying to overturn an election and inciting an insurrection—should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
U.S. Senator Mike Braun, R-Indiana
“Our justice system is being abused as a political weapon to go after former President Trump and affect an election. This indictment is clearly a politically-motivated prosecution by a DA who ignores murders and carjackings but will contort the law to attack his political enemy.”
What are political experts in Illinois saying?
Patrick Collins, a former federal prosecutor, called the indictment “extraordinary” while saying we still have to wait for more details.
“It’s pretty extraordinary, and again we don’t know the specifics (but) it is an indictment that Trump, himself, has sort of presaged and suggested that he would be arrested and while we heard that the grand jury wasn’t going to be meeting for a while, apparently they voted,” Collins said. “We do have to wait for the details, but it is an extraordinary indictment – a former President being charged and there’s also the political ramifications, both for the former president but also for the person who brought the charge, so there’s all sorts of political issues to sort through.”
“But the charge, itself, as we’ve been told, is pretty straightforward in the sense that the former President paid a $140,000 disguised as a legal fee, to pay, essentially hush money, to porn star Stormy Daniels, to protect his run for the presidency years ago,” Collins said.
Dr. Stephen Caliendo, a professor at North Central College, said there are a couple of ways the indictment could play out politically.
“I think there are a couple of ways that this can play out politically,” Caliendo said. “One is the political martyr, and I think we have seen indications of that from Trump supporters, over the last couple of weeks, with suggestions like, ‘if this can happen to him, this can happen to any of us. This has been consistent with what former President Donald Trump’s message has been: ‘What they do to me, they’re trying to do you.’ And so, when he is persecuted, it’s a persecution of the everyday person, the ordinary American.”
“The other way is to be quiet, and to not make a spectacle of the processing and then to fight to the case. Whether these charges will stick and he be convicted is very different than whether an indictment can be handed out.”
Harold Krent with the Chicago-Kent College of Law joined WGN News to discuss the historical significance of the grand jury indictment.