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Monday,  July 22 , 2024

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News / Northwest

WA politicians have plenty to say on Trump conviction

By David Gutman, The Seattle Times
Published: May 31, 2024, 10:39am

The prospect of appearing on the ballot with a presidential candidate convicted of 34 felonies did nothing to dampen Donald Trump’s support among prominent Washington state Republicans.

Political reaction to Trump’s conviction on all 34 counts of falsifying records to cover up a sex scandal in the homestretch of the 2016 election was swift.

Washington Democrats largely praised the jury’s decision, saying the verdict shows no one is above the law.

Many top Republicans did the opposite, echoing Trump’s claims that he was the victim of political persecution and that the criminal legal system is corrupt. That sentiment was echoed even by some GOP candidates who have sought to distinguish themselves from the most MAGA, pro-Trump wing of the GOP.

“From day one, this trial has been a political witch hunt carried out by a liberal DA and judge,” said Leslie Lewallen, a Camas City Council member running for the 3rd Congressional District seat held by first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, in an emailed statement.

Lewallen, who is running as a more moderate Republican against Trump-endorsed far-right candidate Joe Kent, added the verdict “does nothing to disqualify President Trump from holding office, and I look forward to casting my ballot for him in November.”

Kent, on the social media platform X, reacted in apocalyptic terms.

“The system we fought for & many died for is being snuffed out before our eyes because the democrats only care about power,” wrote Kent, a decorated Army Special Forces combat veteran. “The democrats destroying our justice system won’t stop Trump from winning, it likely just earned him more votes.”

Gluesenkamp Perez didn’t immediately react to the verdict Thursday.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Reichert did and he struck a different tone than many in his party.

“Regardless of party or ideology, age, creed or gender, this is a sad day for the nation that merits reflection not rancor,” he said in a statement Thursday, adding that if elected, he’d “do everything I can to bring people together, in common purpose, to resolve the challenges we face and the future we all want.”

But his chief Democratic rival in the gubernatorial race, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, sought to tie the former congressman and sheriff to Trump following the verdict.

“Dave Reichert’s candidate for president just got convicted of 34 felonies. I’m running for Governor to uphold the law,” Ferguson wrote on X. “America must not elect a convicted felon for president.”

Tiffany Smiley, a Republican running for Congress in Central Washington, called the verdict “a kangaroo court” and said she looked forward to voting for Trump.

“The fix is in,” Smiley said in an interview on KTTH radio. “It’s Donald Trump today and it could be us tomorrow.”

“If you have an R next to your name, you are fair game and it is open season,” she said.

Smiley is challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, one of two Republicans remaining in the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. She predicted the conviction would help Trump’s poll numbers, and used it to attack Newhouse.

Jerrod Sessler, a former NASCAR driver and businessman endorsed by Trump in the Newhouse race, posted on X: “PURE CORRUPTION! Reminder: #NOCRIME” in response to the guilty verdict.

Newhouse did not issue any immediate comment Thursday afternoon.

State Republican Party Chairman Jim Walsh, in a statement Thursday called the New York trial “a circus” from the start.

“The charges are dubious. The prosecutors have made their political biases evident for all to see. And the judge has undermined his own credibility in a flamboyant, cartoonish manner. It is very likely the conviction will be overturned on appeal,” Walsh said, predicting the conviction would “backfire” on Democrats.

Mathew Patrick Thomas, the chair of the King County Republicans, said in a comparatively muted statement: “As Republicans, we respect the rule of law and the legal process. The recent verdicts in the trial of the former president will undoubtedly be appealed, and we trust that justice will ultimately be served.”

As the legal process unfolds, Thomas added, “It is important to remember that the real verdict will be known on Election Day in November. Our focus remains on supporting fair and free elections and upholding the principles of our democracy. The American people will have their say, and we will stand by their decision.”

Prominent Washington Democrats meanwhile, largely praised the criminal legal system in one of the highest profile cases the nation has ever seen.

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said she had the TV on all day, muted, as jurors deliberated.

“I have many mixed feelings, but most powerful is that a jury of 12 courageous people, who Donald Trump tried to attack, considered all of the evidence from the defense, from the prosecution and relatively quickly came to a conclusion that he was guilty on all 34 counts,” Jayapal said in a phone interview. “That is an important moment for the United States, for our democracy, for people in the country to see that nobody is above the law.”

Jayapal said the verdict “changed the status of Donald Trump” in the eyes of the law and, “I believe in the eyes of many, many Americans.”

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, wrote on X: “Today, we saw the justice system work. In the United States, no one is above the law.”

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, wrote: “Equal justice under law is more than a slogan — it’s a foundation of America’s justice system that means that no one is above the law, including a former president.”

But some of the highest profile Democrats in the state used the conviction to attack Trump and Republicans more explicitly.

“It is shameful if Republicans continue to stand behind him,” Sen. Patty Murray said in a written statement. “Regardless of the conviction, here’s what no one should forget: Donald Trump’s name will be on the ballot this fall. We should all recognize he is a real threat to our democracy.”

Washington state Democratic Party Chair Shasti Conrad said in a written statement the verdict affirms what the party “has been saying for more than eight years — Convicted Felon Donald Trump is wholly unfit to lead our nation.”

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