Some Republicans are angry about Trump’s prosecution yet ready to vote for someone else in 2024

Jun 16, 2023, 9:25 PM | Updated: Jun 17, 2023, 5:14 am

PELLA, Iowa (AP) — Kathleen Evenhouse took a break from her work in the corner of a small-town Iowa coffee shop to slam the U.S. Justice Department she says is awash in hypocrisy.

“I think we’re playing a game as a country,” the 72-year-old author from Pella said in an interview, expressing a sentiment widely shared among conservatives since the former president was charged. “I think that damages any sense of justice or any sense of — should I even bother to vote? Why should I listen to the news? Or why should I care?”

Evenhouse does plan to vote in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Republican presidential caucuses next year. Despite her anger about Trump’s plight, he will not win her support.

Many voters in early states who will play an outsize role in deciding his political fate agree that he is being treated unfairly. While there is widespread distrust of the Justice Department and its pursuit of him on charges that he illegally stored classified documents and tried to hide them from federal officials, some voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina say Trump has become too damaged to be nominated by his party a third time.

“If you dig a hole and then you have to climb out, it’s going to be harder to do,” Evenhouse said. “And that’s where I think he is.”

Maintaining that Trump was unfairly targeted while other people who were found to have classified documents in their possession were treated differently requires the dismissal of key differences. Most notably, former Vice President Mike Pence and others cooperated with federal officials once documents were discovered in their possession. Trump, according to the 37-count indictment filed in federal court in Miami, ignored a federal subpoena and tried to deceive the Justice Department about what he had.

Resentment over his treatment has been nurtured not just by Trump but by some conservative commentators, Republicans in Congress and White House rivals. Republicans who acknowledge the different circumstances have kept a lower profile.

While the double-standard theory may have taken hold among GOP voters in the early states, it’s not clear that such outrage will translate into ballots cast for Trump when voting for president begins next year. It’s not so much that voters have lost affection for Trump, but that the turmoil has become too heavy a burden for some of them to feel he can win.

“Right now I am a Trump supporter,” said 76-year-old Karen Szelest of Indian Land, South Carolina. “However, I think they’re doing everything they can to have him not run for president of the United States. And I think perhaps, for the betterment of the country, I may vote for somebody else because they keep going after Trump, going after Trump, going after Trump.”

Last week marked a jarring point in the presidential campaign when the Justice Department moved forward with the indictment, a first for a former president, let alone one accused of mishandling top-secret information.

The indictment unsealed last week charged Trump with 37 felony counts — many under the Espionage Act — that accuse him of illegally storing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and trying to hide them from investigators who demanded them back.

After entering his not guilty plea on Tuesday, Trump immediately returned to portraying himself as a victim of a politically driven department aimed at keeping him from returning to the presidency he wrongly claims was stolen from him in 2020.

Some of the roughly 20 early-state voters interviewed this past week spent most of the time railing against what they see as that department’s political agenda.

“It makes me sick that there seems to be completely different criteria for a conservative, and especially Donald Trump,” said Sue VanEe, a 68-year old retired farmer who was waiting for a friend at the same coffee shop where Evenhouse was writing. “Completely different. Like opposite.”

Biden has said he communicated with neither the Justice Department nor the special prosecutor on any aspect of the investigation before the indictment was unsealed.

Skepticism was pervasive among Republicans interviewed by The Associated Press after Trump appeared in federal court and, through his lawyers, entered not guilty pleas to all charges.

That mirrors a persistent split across party lines in how the case is viewed. An ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted last weekend found that Americans were more likely to say Trump should be charged in the documents case than those who say he should not, 48% to 35%. At the same time, 47% of adults believe the charges are politically motivated, compared with 37% who say they are not.

Most Republicans, however, said he should not be charged, and 80% of them believe the charges are politically motivated, according to the ABC poll.

As for the election, polls conducted over the last few months have consistently found Trump as the early front-runner on the Republican side.

Trump’s challenge will be maintaining that advantage as the legal cases against him proceed. His hope that they will work in his favor is bolstered by Republican-leaning voters such as Kelly White of Indian Land.

“It kind of makes me want to support him more,” she said.

Among the most common counterarguments, there are those people who play down the allegations Trump faces while also pointing to what they see as a double standard — one that has excused, for instance, the email server that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, kept in the basement of her private residence in New York.

Charges that she mishandled classified documents weren’t pursued by the Justice Department, in part because relevant Espionage Act cases brought over the past century involved alleged efforts to obstruct justice and willful mishandling of classified information. Those factors were not at play in her case, investigators concluded.

At a farmer’s market in Bedford, New Hampshire, Tom Zapora was chatting with friends and snacking on a “tornado potato,” a spiraled, fried potato on a skewer, shortly after Trump’s appearance in court.

“There’s a lot of things going on there, and in my humble opinion, the current president, past presidents, have done as much if not more wrong than he has and they’ve kind of slid under the radar,” said Zapora, a Republican who owns a moving company.

In Pella, a Dutch-themed community of about 10,000 people in Iowa’s Republican-heavy Marion County where Trump received two-thirds of the vote in 2020, the investigation was hardly the most pressing issue on the minds of voters at a campaign event Wednesday for one of Trump’s challengers, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. During a question-and-answer session, it took 40 minutes for the subject of the indictment to come up.

When it did, the questioner ignored the charges against Trump, asking instead about the fairness of the Justice Department.

Standing in the audience of about 200, 58-year-old engineer Gina Singer, who has been a devoted Trump supporter, said the indictment had become a distraction from the serious business of choosing a presidential nominee who can beat Biden next year.

Though she’s bothered by what she sees as a double standard, she is uncertain about whether Trump will be saddled with so much suspicion that she thinks a next-generation candidate may be what’s best for the party.

“I love everything he stands for and I want his policies to be enacted,” Singer said. “But they’ll just keep on going after him. So, I’m looking for someone else. Both things can be true.”


Associated Press writer Holly Ramer in Bedford, New Hampshire, and video journalist Erik Verduzco in Indian Land, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

United States News

Associated Press

Stock market today: World shares track Wall Street’s slump after Fed says rates may stay high in ’24

World shares have declined, echoing a slump on Wall Street after the Federal Reserve said it may not cut interest rates next year by as much as it earlier thought. Benchmarks fell by 1% or more in Paris, Tokyo, Sydney and Hong Kong. U.S. futures slipped and oil prices also were lower. On Wednesday, the […]

5 hours ago

FILE - Deja Taylor arrives at federal court, June 12, 2023, in Virginia Beach, Va. Taylor, the moth...

Associated Press

Mother of 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher in Virginia could be jailed for failing drug tests

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — The mother of a 6-year-old who shot his teacher in Virginia could be jailed Thursday for failing drug tests while awaiting sentencing on federal weapons charges that she used marijuana while possessing a firearm. A bond revocation hearing is set in federal court in Newport News for Deja Taylor. Her […]

6 hours ago

FILE - Anthony Sanchez, right, is escorted into a Cleveland County courtroom for a preliminary hear...

Associated Press

Man set to be executed for 1996 slaying of University of Oklahoma dance student

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma is set to execute an inmate Thursday morning for the 1996 slaying of a University of Oklahoma dance student, a case that went unsolved for years until DNA from the crime scene matched a man serving time for burglary. Anthony Sanchez, 44, is scheduled to receive a three-drug injection at […]

6 hours ago

A Brightline train approaches the Fort Lauderdale station on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, in Fort Lauderd...

Associated Press

First private US passenger rail line in 100 years is about to link Miami and Orlando at high speed

MIAMI (AP) — The first big test of whether privately owned high-speed passenger train service can prosper in the United States will launch Friday when Florida’s Brightline begins running trains between Miami and Orlando, reaching speeds of 125 mph (200 kph). It’s a $5 billion bet Brightline’s owner, Fortress Investment Group, is making, believing that […]

6 hours ago

The entrance to the Las Vegas Review-Journal campus is shown in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023...

Associated Press

Outdated headline sparks vicious online hate campaign directed at Las Vegas newspaper

NEW YORK (AP) — A Las Vegas newspaper is being viciously attacked online for its coverage of an alleged murder of a retired police chief, either because of a misunderstanding or a deliberate attempt to mislead. The “firehose of hatred” has led the Las Vegas Review-Journal to sift through email directed at one of its […]

6 hours ago

Disbarred attorney Alex Murdaugh arrives in court in Beaufort, S.C. Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Murda...

Associated Press

Alex Murdaugh plans to do something he hasn’t yet done in court — plead guilty

Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh is expected to step before a judge Thursday and do something he hasn’t done in the two years since his life of privilege and power started to unravel: plead guilty to a crime. Murdaugh will admit in federal court that he committed 22 counts of financial fraud and money laundering, his […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.



When most diets fail, re:vitalize makes a difference that shows

Staying healthy and losing weight are things many people in Arizona are conscious of, especially during the summer.



At Ability360, every day is Independence Day

With 100 different programs and services, more than 1,500 non-medically based home care staff, a world-renowned Sports & Fitness Center and over 15,000 people with disabilities served annually, across all ages and demographics, Ability360 is a nationwide leader in the disability community.

Some Republicans are angry about Trump’s prosecution yet ready to vote for someone else in 2024