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Barr, Bolton, Kelly line up to condemn Trump over alleged crimes

Most of former President Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination have taken a cautious path in responding to his indictment — but some veterans of his administration have taken a far more assertive stance.
Bill Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general, said that Trump would be “toast” if “even half” of the behavior alleged in the indictment proved to be true.
Barr later called the defenses mounted by Trump and his allies “farcical” and said that the former president had “engaged in an outrageous act of obstruction and deception.”
John Bolton, who was national security advisor for Trump from 2018-2019, called the indictment “devastating” and said it should be the “end of Donald Trump’s political career.”
Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Washington Post that Trump was “scared s**tless” by the circumstances in which he finds himself, adding “he’s never been held accountable before.”
Barr, Bolton and Kelly have all grown more alienated from Trump in recent years, but they are nonetheless cut from different cloth than “Never Trump” figures like former Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
This lends them some degree of credibility, at least in terms of providing a counterpoint to Team Trump’s claims that the indictment — on 37 counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice — is a politically motivated attempt to hobble his chances of winning back the presidency.
Other significant figures in the party and in the broader conservative movement have also weighed in against Trump’s conduct in relation to the sensitive documents found at Mar-a-Lago.
In doing so, they have created a sharply different dynamic around this case than the indictment filed against Trump in April in New York.
The New York case, in which Trump is accused of falsifying business records, is viewed as flimsy even by some liberals and is derided by most conservatives.
When it comes to the more recent arraignment however, Karl Rove blasted Trump in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week.
Rove said it was Trump’s “reckless petulance” that had put him in legal jeopardy.
Retired federal judge Michael Luttig, a figure with deep roots in the conservative movement, wrote on Twitter on the day of Trump’s arraignment that any attorney general, regardless of party, “would have brought today’s charges against the former president.”
Trump, Luttig added, had left the Department of Justice “no choice but to bring these charges lest the former president make a mockery of the Constitution and the rule of law.”
To be sure, it’s important not to exaggerate the political effect these interventions are likely to have.
Trump remains the clear frontrunner to become the Republican nominee, including in opinion polls conducted after his indictment was unsealed on June 9. His hardcore supporters are famously resolute in their devotion to him, regardless of negative developments, And there aren’t many potential caucus-goers in Iowa whose intentions are going to be shifted by what a figure such as Judge Luttig says.
Still, the fact that such sentiments are being voiced — and often in conservative-friendly precincts like Fox News or the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal — is important in itself.
“It’s not that if John Bolton or Bill Barr say these things then all of a sudden we are going to see a 5-point drop in Trump’s numbers, but that’s also not the intended effect,” said Doug Heye, a former communications director of the Republican National Committee.
Instead, Heye said, such sentiments would “start to build the permission structure” for Republican rivals of Trump to come out more forcefully against the former president.
Those candidates so far have been largely circumspect, with the exception of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Christie has consciously positioned himself as the most anti-Trump candidate in the race, and neither he nor Hutchinson seem like real contenders at this point.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump’s most serious rival in the polls, has largely confined himself to criticisms of the purported weaponization of the justice system, and subtle jabs at Trump.
Former Vice President Pence told CNBC that, having read the indictment, he “cannot defend what is alleged.” But Pence added, “I can’t believe that politics didn’t play some role here.”
Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has, similarly, criticized the process that led to Trump being charged while at the same time arguing that he may have been “incredibly reckless with our national security.”
John ‘Mac’ Stipanovich, a longtime Republican operative in Florida and a staunch Trump critic, argued that the relative caution of presidential candidates and elected Republicans made the dissenting voices from the broader movement all the more important.
When the people speaking out are “credible Republicans, not apostates or renegades like me, I think that matters,” Stipanovich said, “And if enough of them do it, then it could bend the arc of that narrative.”
There is no guarantee that will happen, of course.
But the dissenting voices are, at the least, a complication that Trump could do without as so many other threats press in.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.



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