U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver speaks during an event on March 7, 2020, in Kansas City, Missouri.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver speaks during an event on March 7, 2020, in Kansas City, Missouri. (Kyle Rivas/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, thinks in most cases any elected official or member of Congress who can’t have sympathy for someone in a situation like former President Donald Trump is pathetic.

Trump said on social media Tuesday that he received a letter from special prosecutor Jack Smith that a grand jury is considering charges about his efforts to hold on to the presidency after losing the 2020 election. Such letters usually indicate a coming indictment, which would be Trump’s third indictment this year.

Cleaver said he was talking to friends on the House floor about having sympathy for Trump and one asked him whether Trump would express the same sympathy to him if the tables were turned.

“I said no,” said Cleaver, who is a United Methodist pastor. “But we’re called to be better than that. I don’t have a party to celebrate that.”

Cleaver said he believes there should be consequences for the people responsible for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and that everything he has seen or read indicates Trump played a pivotal role in inciting the group of his supporters who violently stormed the Capitol that day.

“I’m not celebrating, I’m not joyful, that the president has received a target letter, which means likely he’s gonna be indicted shortly,” Cleaver said. “I don’t get excited about us resembling some of the so-called banana republics and an even Eastern European and Asian countries, African countries where the loser ends up in jail.”

Cleaver blamed Trump for the Capitol attack in the immediate aftermath of the riot, telling The Star that evening that, “The president sent the people down here. That’s an uncontestable fact that I think history will record.”

As indictments pile up against Trump — one for alleged hush money payments to cover up an affair, one for his alleged refusal to return classified documents to the National Archives and now one regarding his effort to maintain power after losing the election — lawmakers responses have taken on a familiar pattern.

While Cleaver was offering sympathy from the House, the Republican senators from Missouri and Kansas were dismissive of the letter, claiming it was part of a politically motivated effort by the Department of Justice.

“This seems like it’s another political hit job regardless,” said Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican. “And it just doesn’t make sense what they’re doing at this point.”

Marshall and Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, were among the five senators who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results in both Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Hawley, who has been widely criticized over a photo taken of him raising his fist to protesters that day, was the first senator to say he would object to the certification of the election, setting off a process that was delayed by the mob who violently fought their way into the building.

Hawley on Tuesday called the investigation politically motivated, saying the Senate had already held an impeachment trial and acquitted Trump.

“My view is that DOJ clearly, clearly wants to prevent Trump from running and of course from winning and so the clock is ticking here, so they’re going to try to do this soon as they can,” Hawley said.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, a Missouri Republican, was not in office during the insurrection and did not vote during the impeachment trial. As Missouri attorney general, Schmitt joined lawsuits seeking to overturn Biden’s wins in key swing states.

“They had an impeachment vote here, which I would disagree with, but that was a political response,” Schmitt said. “Here we are now with, again, criminal charges, maybe a third round, and I just think it’s a very dangerous road to go down to weaponize our politics and bring criminal charges that we’ve seen so far for this administration.”

The indictments appear to have done little so far to knock Trump off as the front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. He continues to have a firm lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in early polling, and his opponents have largely shied away from using Trump’s legal challenges against him.

On Tuesday, DeSantis’ campaign tried to deemphasize his statement that Trump didn’t come out “forcefully” enough against the mob on January 6, 2021, after Trump’s spokesman called it a “disqualifying take.”

“It seems like the people that support President Trump, each indictment comes out, they love him even more, they dig their heels in even more,” Marshall said. “So those that love him seem to love him more and those that hate him seem to hate him more.”

There are only a few Republicans in the Senate who have come out vocally against Trump, though one of them is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has largely ignored the former president since he left office.

Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who has been vocal about his opposition to Trump, said on Tuesday that Trump “sat idly by for hours while he knew that the Capitol is being attacked and that his vice president was under threat of bodily harm.”

“I know that we do our best to try and fire up our base,” Romney said. “But the reality is that President Trump did a number of terrible things on January 6.”

Sen. Jerry Moran, who voted to acquit Trump during the Senate’s impeachment trial, had little to say about Trump’s likely indictment. He was the only Kansas Republican in Congress to affirm Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.

“It’s just one more step in the process,” Moran said.

©2023 The Kansas City Star.

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