Opinion: Donald Trump’s trial becomes a GOP pilgrimage

From left U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Mills of Florida listen as former President Donald Trump talks to reporters outside a Manhattan criminal court before his trial resumed Tuesday. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

From left U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Mills of Florida listen as former President Donald Trump talks to reporters outside a Manhattan criminal court before his trial resumed Tuesday. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)

A funny thing happened on the way to Capitol Hill over the past few weeks for Republicans in Congress — some GOP lawmakers decided to make a detour to New York to express their support for former President Donald Trump.

In recent years, a trip to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was a prized stop — but now with Trump stuck in a courtroom several days a week, the display of loyalty has moved to Manhattan.

“I called President Trump and told him I wanted to be here myself to call out what is a travesty of justice,” U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said.

Johnson not only defended Trump but lashed out at the four different prosecutions against him.

“I am disgusted by what is happening,” said Johnson, who left without taking any questions from reporters.

It’s now standard procedure for a few Republicans to sit in the courtroom when Trump’s trial is in session, and then later they help him hammer home his public message in front of the waiting television cameras.

“Justice is not supposed to mean political persecution,” said U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who was there on Tuesday.

Not all Republicans are on board with the trips to New York. U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called them “demeaning” and “embarrassing,” and Democrats called the GOP visitors “groupies.”

Capitol Hill did get a bit of a chuckle from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, who might have been a bit jealous that Johnson had the idea to go there before she did.

“Pathetic,” Greene wrote on social media, as she again criticized Johnson for not getting Congress to pass a measure blocking money for the federal special counsel investigations against Trump.

While GOP lawmakers savage the local prosecutors, criticize the judge, impeach the witnesses — and blame President Joe Biden for all of it — they never get into the messy details about this case, which is often referred to in media shorthand as Trump’s ”porn star hush money” trial.

Prosecutors say Trump had Michael Cohen pay off adult film star Stormy Daniels late in the 2016 campaign to keep Daniels quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Cohen testified that the approval of payments to quietly reimburse him was approved by Trump in an Oval Office meeting in 2017.

Whether a jury will see all of this as a criminal act — and actually find Trump guilty — is another story.

But for now, you can bet some in the Trump campaign are keeping track of who showed up in New York to demonstrate their support.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com.