Newsday's Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief Tom Brune, discusses why local officials might have stayed silent on Donald Trump's indictment charges. Credit: Newsday

WASHINGTON — After the unsealing Friday of the federal indictment of former President Donald Trump, Democrats urged Americans to support the rule of law, but Republicans decried what they called the "weaponization" of power against a likely rival to President Joe Biden next year.

At the U.S. Department of Justice, special counsel Jack Smith said violations of classified records laws described in the 37-count indictment against Trump and his personal aide Walt Nauta "put our country at risk," and promised a "speedy trial." 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the top two Democrats in Congress and both from Brooklyn, urged all partisans to stand back and let the case work its way through the courts.

"No one is above the law — including Donald Trump," Schumer and Jeffries said in a joint statement.

"This indictment must now play out through the legal process, without any outside political or ideological interference," they said. "We encourage Mr. Trump's supporters and critics alike to let this case proceed peacefully in court."

But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted: "I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable."

Two of Long Island's four Republican congressmen agreed.

“Every American deserves a fair justice system devoid of any political, racial, or religious motivations,” Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) said in a statement.

“To the contrary, the Biden Justice Department’s indictment of a Former President who is running against Biden, without … an indictment of their boss who stored classified material in his Delaware garage, reeks of political retaliation,” LaLota said. 

LaLota also cited the Justice Department's dismissal of charges against former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for destroying thousands of her government emails. 

Justice Department special prosecutor Robert Hur, appointed in January, continues to investigate whether Biden improperly handled classified documents found in his home and an office he used during the Trump administration.

Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens), who has proclaimed innocence in the face of a 13-count federal indictment for fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and false statements, also stood up for Trump.

“Another indictment of President Donald J. Trump will not gaslight the American People into abandoning the greatest champion of freedom this great young nation has ever known.” Santos tweeted on his campaign account.

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park) sidestepped the question with a statement from his spokesman Matt Capp.

“While our office continues to monitor the situation, Congressman D’Esposito’s focus remains on delivering meaningful tax relief to New Yorkers and fighting for safe streets,” Capp said.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) did not respond to requests for comment.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York's other Democrat in the Senate, agreed with Schumer.

"Senator Gillibrand has full confidence in our legal system and the Justice Department," her spokesman Evan Lukaske said in a statement.

The leaders of the two parties in New York state also split in their view of the indictment.

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York State Republican Party, called the indictment a “political stunt by backroom political guys” at the Justice Department, which Cox accused the Biden administration of politicizing.

Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York Democratic Party, called the indictment “a somber moment in our nation’s history.”

Jacobs, who also chairs the Nassau Democratic Party, said, “All of us must remember that the rule of law is more important than any individual — no matter who that individual is or what office they hold or have held.”

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