Donald Trump and his allies were defiant Thursday night in response to the Justice Department’s decision to charge him in connection with classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home, casting the case without evidence as politically motivated, while some rivals for the GOP presidential nomination were supportive.

“It’s election interference at the highest level,” Trump said in a video posted to his social media platform, Truth Social. He said he was innocent and would prove it.

Seeking another term in the White House, Trump has fundraised aggressively off his growing legal troubles — a practice he kept up Thursday — and continues to suggest baselessly that they are an extension of enemies’ efforts to rig elections against him. His overall strategy echoed his approach following a previous indictment this year in New York, where he has pleaded not guilty to falsifying business records. That development and his response served to strengthen his standing in the GOP, in part by outraging his loyal base.

On Thursday, reactions from his rivals reinforced some of the arguments he was advancing. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running in second place behind the former president in polls of the GOP nominee race, sounded similar notes to the ones Trump and his allies were using.

“The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation,” DeSantis said in a statement, accusing government officials of being “zealous in pursuing Trump” and “passive” toward Democrat Hillary Clinton and President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

“The DeSantis administration will bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias and end weaponization once and for all,” he added.

Former New Jersey governor and presidential candidate Chris Christie, who has positioned himself as uniquely equipped to attack Trump, said on Twitter that “no one is above the law” and withheld judgment on the case, saying there would be “more to say when the facts are revealed.”

Many GOP officials jumped to the former president’s defense on Thursday night, and one long-shot rival for the Republican nomination, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, said he would “pardon Trump promptly on January 20, 2025” if elected.

The reactions from across the party underscored the continued power Trump holds in the GOP, even as he faces growing legal peril, as well as the political risks his rivals see in taking him to task over charges that could inspire an impassioned rebuke from conservative voters. While some of his rivals have stepped up their attacks on Trump on other fronts, they have been more hesitant to attack him over his legal problems.

DeSantis, who once allied himself closely with Trump and is trying to win over the former president’s voters, faced blowback from some on the right earlier this year when he declined to weigh in on the day Trump was indicted in New York. The Florida governor eventually accused the prosecutor of political motivations, but he also made a veiled jab at Trump, going out of his way to note the allegations of “porn star hush money” at the center of the case.”

The new charges come as a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates shows a willingness to criticize Trump — but also threatens to split the vote against him and ease his path to the nomination.

Trump was already fundraising off the indictment Thursday night, with an email to small-dollar donors that was titled: “BREAKING: INDICTED.” He asked the donors to give at least $24 “to peacefully stand with me today and prove that YOU will NEVER surrender our country to the radical Left — for 1,500% impact.”

The charges against the former president include illegal retention of government secrets, obstruction of justice and conspiracy, according to people familiar with the matter. The case stems from the discovery of hundreds of classified documents taken to Trump’s personal residence in Palm Beach, Fla., after he left the White House.

Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson stood out among 2024 Republican contenders when he reiterated his call for Trump to end his campaign.

“Donald Trump’s actions — from his willful disregard for the Constitution to his disrespect for the rule of law — should not define our nation or the Republican Party,” he said in a statement. “This is a sad day for our country.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who has refrained from attacking Trump since entering the race, told Fox News: “What we’ve seen over the last several years is the weaponization of the Department of Justice against the former president.” He added that as president, he would “purge all of the injustices and impurities in our system” and that he will “continue to pray that justice prevails.”

Former vice president Mike Pence, who sharpened his criticism of Trump this week as he announced his presidential campaign, said earlier in the day at a campaign stop in Iowa that “no one’s above the law,” but that if the Justice Department moved forward with the unprecedented indictment of a former U.S. president he hoped that “it would meet the high threshold that would justify what would likely result in a divisive action in the country and send a terrible message to the wider world.”

Democrats on Thursday united behind the message they sent earlier this year following the New York indictment: “No one is above the law.”

“Trump’s apparent indictment on multiple charges arising from his retention of classified materials is another affirmation of the rule of law,” tweeted Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who served as manager in Trump’s first impeachment, gaining the former president’s dislike. “For four years, he acted like he was above the law. But he should be treated like any other lawbreaker. And today, he has been.”

The White House declined to comment on the charges Thursday night and referred inquiries to the Department of Justice.

Earlier Thursday, before Trump announced he was indicted, President Biden was asked by a reporter about what he could say to Americans to “convince them” that they “should trust the independence and fairness of the Justice Department.”

Among the Republicans who immediately defended Trump were Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who appeared to allude to the charges in a tweet that said there “is no limit to what these people will do to protect their power.” Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) similarly claimed — without evidence — that Biden had “used” the Justice Department to “indict his top political opponent.”

Trump, in his video statement, said he was innocent and cast the charges as the latest of many unfair attacks. He has continued to claim falsely that the 2020 election was stolen from him and to campaign on promises of “retribution” for those who have wronged him and his supporters.

“I’m an innocent man,” he said Thursday. “We will prove that again — seven years of proving it, and here we go again. Very unfair, but that’s the way it is.”

Josh Dawsey, Tyler Pager, Mariana Alfaro and Marianne Levine contributed to this report.

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