WASHINGTON — In the minutes after news broke that former President Donald Trump had been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, Raw Story spoke with seven prominent politicians and political actors, past and present, to put the moment into perspective.
Here's their initial reactions to Trump becoming the first president or former president to face an indictment — in this case, for actions allegedly related to illegal hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels:
Walter Shaub: Shaub, who served as director of the Office of Government Ethics during the early months of Trump's presidency, described the indictment to Raw Story as something years in the making.
"The Office of Government Ethics notified the Justice Department in 2018 that former President Donald Trump had omitted his debt to Michael Cohen for the hush money payment from his 2017 financial disclosure, and this indictment shows precisely why that sort of omission matters," said Shaub, who's now a senior ethics fellow at the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. "We should all be wondering what else Trump may have omitted from his disclosures as president and, more recently, why he missed the deadline to file a required personal financial disclosure as a candidate this year."
Shaub noted that the hush money payment matter is years old and formally addressed by the Office of Government Ethics in 2018.
A 2018 letter from then-Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics David Apol to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA): The former 2020 presidential candidate said that "the indictment of a former president is a somber day for America. It’s also a time to put faith in our judicial system. Donald Trump deserves every protection provided to him by the Constitution and due process under our rule of law."
Swalwell urged the public to "neither celebrate nor destroy. As the former president continues to call for violence in his name, let all of us, as Democrats and Republicans, condemn his efforts to incite. We are better than that and justice benefits all of us.”
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA): “No person is above the law," the five-term lawmaker said.
Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA): “About damn time,” said Riggleman, who also served as an adviser to the U.S. House's January 6 select committee and said he left the Republican Party last year.
Asked if he had advise for fellow Republicans, Riggleman replied: “Don’t back lawless and duplicitous con-men."
Former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL): “This is how the criminal justice process works," Jolly said. "Trump now has an opportunity to refute the charges. My concern is the case actually takes a back seat to genuinely destabilizing themes proffered by Trump allies on the Hill and in conservative media. [Rep.] Ronny Jackson has already gone there. Others won't be far behind.”
Former Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI): Expect more indictments, said Ribble, who served in Congress from 2011 to 2017.
"It's unlikely it's going to be the only one," he said, noting investigations Trump faces in Washington, D.C., and Fulton County, Georgia.
Ribble urged all Americans to resist idle speculation about what Trump did or didn't do and not prejudge the legal process the former president is facing.
"People like to say nobody is above the law — until our guy gets attacked," he said.
Ribble noted that Trump's constant attempts to cast doubt on the legal process aren't helpful, and that Trump has personally used the courts to his benefit for decades.
"You live by the court, you might die by the court," the former congressman said.
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE): Kerrey, who served in the Senate from 1989 to 2001 and ran for president in 1992, urged the public to take a measured approach to Trump's indictment.
"You're not guilty because you're indicted. This is a step," Kerrey said. "Is this unprecedented? Everything about Donald Trump is unprecedented. Yes, it is without precedent. The fact that it is unprecedented means nothing. But this is a serious charge. It is not trivial."
Kerrey, however, said Trump is doing himself no favors.
"It's unfortunate that the former president is saying he's a victim in this process. He is not," Kerrey said. "Nobody is immune to an indictment by a grand jury, including a former president of the United States."
Kerrey added that Trump could, however, face his greatest legal peril in Georgia, where a grand jury in Fulton County is considering evidence that Trump tampered with results of the 2020 election.
"If you're looking for evidence, you have a phone call ... from Donald Trump," Kerrey noted.