The Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats in next year’s elections are keeping quiet about former President Donald Trump’s new criminal indictment for trying to overturn the 2020 election.
Of the seven most at-risk Democrats sitting in red or purple states, just one has broken their silence about the four-count indictment.
That’s for good reason, Democratic Party strategists say.
“They have to be very careful because, in a lot of these marginal areas, Trump has more popularity than they do,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic strategist who’s advised the likes of former President Bill Clinton and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“[Voters] like the incumbents, that’s why those incumbents are in office,” he said. “But give them a reason to dislike the incumbents and that could change radically. Saying less, not more, is probably a very smart move to make.”
The most vulnerable Senate Democrats include Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
With Congress on August recess, the indictment’s timing provides an opportune time for lawmakers to evade reporters’ questions.
Mr. Tester was the lone senator to respond to The Washington Times’ request for comment. A spokesperson for the three-term senator took a neutral stance compared to his liberal colleagues and refrained from denouncing Mr. Trump, who bested President Biden in Montana by more than 16 points in 2020.
“Senator Tester believes everyone should be treated fairly and without bias during a criminal investigation, and he expects the treatment of former President Trump will be no different,” a Tester spokesperson said. “He has said our criminal justice system must be without political influence, where no one is above the law, and all Americans are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Mr. Sheinkopf said he would advise the other vulnerable Senate Democrats to take Mr. Tester’s “very smart” approach, arguing that it speaks to Trump voters by calling for “fairness.”
“A lot of what the [Trump supporters] are feeling is that this is an attack — an unnecessary one — on Trump, that these indictments keep piling on, and when you pile them on, you make it less likely he could receive fair treatment by the justice system,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “The less you fall into it if you’re an incumbent Democrat in a marginal or more conservative state, the lower probability you’re going to be beaten up. You’re going to be beaten up anyways.”
Montana’s other senator, Republican Steve Daines, is taking a more aggressive stance as head of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm that is trying to unseat Mr. Tester. Mr. Daines said the latest charges “reek of prosecutorial misconduct.”
“Every American should be troubled by the fact that President Biden’s DOJ is attempting to put his top political rival in prison,” he said. “Meanwhile, evidence of corruption continues to pile up against Hunter Biden and appears now more than ever to implicate President Biden himself. We must put an end to the two systems of justice in America.”
The other cases against Mr. Trump are state charges in New York for allegedly falsifying business records for hush-money payments in 2016 to two women and a doorman, and federal charges for allegedly mishandling classified government documents after leaving office.
Mr. Trump has denied any wrongdoing in all three cases.
The former president could also face a fourth criminal indictment in Georgia for efforts to overturn the Peach State’s 2020 election results.
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