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Speaker Mike Johnson assails Trump鈥檚 felony trial in remarkable visit outside courthouse

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has become the highest-level Republican to attend Donald Trump鈥檚 hush money trial, a signal of the former president鈥檚 grip on the GOP as the country heads toward the November election.

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U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson assailed the hush money case against Donald Trump Tuesday as an illegitimate 鈥渟ham,鈥 becoming the highest-ranking Republican to show up at court, embrace the former president鈥檚 claims of political persecution and attack the U.S. system of justice.

It was a remarkable moment in modern American politics: The House speaker amplifying Trump鈥檚 defense and turning the Republican Party against the federal and state legal systems that are foundational to the U.S. government and a cornerstone of democracy.

Johnson, who is second in line for the presidency, called the court system 鈥渃orrupt.鈥

Outside the New York courthouse, he decried 鈥渢his ridiculous prosecution that is not about justice.鈥 He said, 鈥淚t鈥檚 all about politics.鈥

AP AUDIO: Speaker Mike Johnson鈥檚 appearance at Trump鈥檚 felony trial marks a remarkable moment in US politics

AP correspondent Julie Walker reports House Speaker Mike Johnson lends his support to Donald Trump at court today.

The speaker is leading a growing list of Republican lawmakers who are criticizing the American judicial system as they rally to Trump鈥檚 side, appearing at the courthouse to defend the party鈥檚 presumptive presidential nominee. Trump is accused of having arranged secret payments to a porn actress to hide negative stories during his successful 2016 campaign for president.

With Trump stuck in court and barred by a judge鈥檚 gag order from criticizing witnesses or certain elements of the case, Johnson and the lawmakers are taking it upon themselves to attack the proceedings, now in a fourth week of witness testimony. They鈥檙e using the trial as a de facto campaign stop as they work to return the former president to the White House.

In portraying the case against Trump as politically motivated, the Republicans are also laying the groundwork to dismiss its significance should the jury convict, and for potential challenges to the fall election, a rematch with President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Johnson was a chief architect of Trump鈥檚 efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential results ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, mob assault on the U.S. Capitol, and last week he called the hush money trial and the other election-year cases against Trump a 鈥渂orderline criminal conspiracy.鈥

鈥淚t is election interference,鈥 Johnson said Tuesday, insisting he was appearing on his own to back Trump, whom he called a friend. 鈥淎nd the American people are not going to let this stand.鈥

What to know about Trump鈥檚 hush money trial:

Unlike other Republicans showing up to show their support, Johnson did not enter the courtroom where Trump is on trial, but dashed back to Washington to open the House chamber for the day.

Later at the Capitol, Johnson repeated the Republican Party鈥檚 claims of the justice system being 鈥渨eaponized鈥 against Trump and said Americans are 鈥渓osing faith鈥 in it.

Also with Trump on Tuesday were U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum 鈥 both considered possible vice presidential candidates 鈥 as well as former GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, one of Trump鈥檚 current top surrogates.

U.S. Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were among those who attended court on Monday.

Trump鈥檚 campaign has lined up allies in recent days to appear at the New York courthouse to attack witnesses and others whom Trump is barred by a judge鈥檚 gag order from criticizing himself.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said Monday that he appeared last week at the invitation of Trump senior advisor Susie Wiles. The campaign has said others volunteered to come to New York.

鈥淭he Democrats are using the court system to go after and prosecute, criminally, a political opponent 鈥 that鈥檚 a crime,鈥 Scott said over the weekend on Fox News. 鈥淭hey鈥檙e just thugs trying to stop Trump from being able to run for president.鈥

In the short term, the Republicans鈥 presence at the courthouse and comments critical of the process have let Trump and his allies amplify their message without risking another explicit violation of the gag order. Trump鈥檚 attorneys have challenged the gag order as unconstitutional, but an appeals court upheld it on Tuesday.

Johnson specifically attacked the credibility of Michael Cohen, Trump鈥檚 former lawyer and fixer who began his second day of testimony in the former president鈥檚 hush money trial. And others, too.

He criticized Cohen as 鈥渁 man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge,鈥 said lead prosecutor Matthew Colangelo 鈥渞ecently received over $10,000 in payments from the Democratic National Committee鈥 and said the daughter of Judge Juan M. Merchan has made 鈥渕illions of dollars鈥 doing online fundraising for Democrats.

Colangelo, who joined the Manhattan District Attorney鈥檚 Office in 2022 and previously worked in the U.S. Justice Department in the Biden administration, did paid 鈥減olitical consulting鈥 work for the DNC in 2018, according to federal campaign finance records.

The Republican speaker, who is wholly dependent on support from Trump to keep the gavel, has aimed to strengthen their alliance, particularly as Johnson has come under fire from his own caucus in the House, including a failed effort at his removal by a fellow Trump backer, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Johnson made an appearance with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago club last month to announce new House legislation to require proof of citizenship for voting, echoing Trump鈥檚 baseless claims that Democrats are abetting immigrants entering the U.S. illegally to swing elections 鈥 another potential route for Republican challenges to the 2024 election.

There isn鈥檛 any indication that noncitizens vote in significant numbers in federal elections or that they will in the future.

And Johnson joined Trump on stage for the Republican National Committee鈥檚 gala at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, praising the presumptive presidential nominee and saying House Republicans fully expect to ride Trump鈥檚 coattails to their own re-elections to keep the majority hold on the chamber.

Johnson has been using the pulpit of the speaker鈥檚 office in Washington to attack the U.S. judicial system, criticizing the courts as biased against the former president, claiming the case is politically motivated by Democrats and insisting Trump has done nothing wrong.

The speaker has demurred when asked if the 2020 election was legitimate, and in a departure from the tradition of trust and adherence in U.S. election systems, Johnson and other Republicans have hedged when asked if they will accept the election results of 2024.

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Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at

Kinnard covers national politics for 老澳门六合彩. She lives in South Carolina.