A New York jury has found Donald Trump liable of sexual abuse and defamation against author and columnist E Jean Carroll.
Jurors dismissed the claim that Trump raped Ms Carroll in the 1990s, but after less than three hours of deliberation, decided that the former US President was liable for subjecting Ms Carroll to sexual contact without consent by use of force - and for defaming her after she made her allegations public. She was awarded £4 million in civil damages.
Speculation has already begun about whether the verdict will hinder Trump’s bid to return to the White House in 2024. Surprisingly, there is no rule which now excludes him from continuing to run for President, but many believe that the court’s findings, combined with Ms Carroll’s vivid recounting of her trauma, should damage his campaign in some way.
However, commentators have already pointed out that fervent supporters and allies of Trump seem to stand by him unconditionally. “There is nothing he can do, nothing, that would shake the core of MAGA (Make America Great Again supporters), which is 25 - 30% of the Republican Party who vote in primaries,” said Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia.
It’s also worth noting that those affiliated with Trump are often quick to believe what he says, and the former US President has already made various proclamations on his social media platform Truth Social about the case being a “witch-hunt” and a “scam” - something his defenders could run with.
But Trump not only needs the support of the people to be successful in his presidential bid. Support from those within the political sphere, such as senators, will also be crucial. So with that in mind, here’s how major Republican Party figures have reacted to the sexual abuse verdict against Trump - and what it could mean for his future.
‘It makes me want to vote for him twice’
One of the first Republicans to react to Trump being found liable for sexual abuse was Tommy Tuberville, who claimed the verdict had only strengthened his support for the former US President. “It makes me want to vote for him twice,” he told reporters.
Discussing what the outcome might mean for Trump’s bid to return to the White House in 2024, Tuberville claimed “they’re going to do anything to keep him from winning” - but that these attempts would prove unsuccessful. “People are going to see through the lines,” he said. “A New York jury? He had no chance.”
The Alabama Senator wasn’t the only one to suggest the verdict was linked to where the case had been held. Senator Rick Scott from Florida simply pointed out that “it’s a New York jury” when asked about the case. He then repeated Trump’s denial of the allegations, remarking: “He said he didn’t do it.”
Meanwhile, Senator Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma claimed it would be “very difficult” for Trump to get a fair trial “in any of these liberal states”, and Lindsey Graham, Senator for South Carolina, remarked: “When it comes to Donald Trump, the New York legal system is off the rails.”
‘The whole case is a joke’
Florida Senator Marco Rubio also rubbished the sexual abuse verdict, telling reporters: “The jury is a joke. The whole case is a joke.”
He then dismissed the defamation finding against Trump, arguing: “If someone accuses me of raping them and I didn’t do it, and you’re innocent, of course you’re going to say something about it… It was a joke.”
Elsewhere, Tennessee Senator Bill Hagerty argued that the lawsuit was just the latest aspect of the “legal circus” surrounding Trump. In an interview with Fox News, he said: “I think we’ve seen President Trump under attack since before he became President. This has been going on for years, and he’s been amazing in his ability to weather these sort of attacks.”
He added that Americans had been “amazing” in their support for Trump - and insisted that he didn’t think this ruling would “have an impact on the public’s viewpoint.”
‘Unfit for office’
Some Republicans however have spoken out against their former party leader, with Senator Liz Cheney taking to Twitter to post an advert attacking Trump and attempting to dissuade people from voting for him. She wrote: “Donald Trump has proven he is unfit for office. He is a risk America can never take again.”
The Republican, from Wyoming, described Trump as the only US President in history to refuse the “peaceful transition of power”, claiming that he had “betrayed millions of Americans” by spreading the ‘Big Lie’ after Joe Biden defeated him in 2020. “There has never been a greater dereliction of duty by any President,” she insisted.
Mitt Romney voiced a similar opinion to Cheney, commenting: “The jury reached their decision and I hope the jury of the American people reach the same conclusion: we need a different person to be the nominee for President.” The Senator for Utah concluded: “He is no position to be the President of the United States.”
‘It creates concern’
Some were less forthcoming in their responses, but still indicated that their support for Trump was dwindling. Senator Mike Rounds, from South Dakota, told reporters: “You never like to hear that a former President has been found in a civil court guilty of those types of actions.
When asked if he could support somebody who’s been found liable for sexual battery, he said: “I would have a difficult time doing so.”
Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy added that the findings “create concern”. He remarked: “How could it not? If what the woman says… if he’s been found liable, how could it do anything but create concern?” He then added that it would be up to voters to decide whether the verdict disqualifies Trump from running for President in 2024.
There were also those who refused to comment on the case, which in many ways is equally as telling. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a long-time ally of Trump, was asked by journalists whether he “stood by” the former US President after the New York jury had found him liable for sexual abuse.
McCarthy claimed he was not going to “avoid the question” - before doing just that, remarking: “I’ve been at the White House. I haven’t seen the indictment.” When pressed further, McCarthy replied: “You know what? I’ve been in this meeting. But let me find out what this is.”
Similarly, Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene - who is often vocal in her support of Trump - has surprised many by not speaking out about her opinion. “RT if you still have @realDonaldTrump’s back!”, is still her pinned tweet, however.
What does it mean for Trump?
The core members of the MAGA fanbase have made it clear that they are sticking by Trump, with several falsely denouncing the case on social media as rigged and the jury as biased.
Many of Trump’s key political allies have also, as expected, reiterated some of his key conspiracy theories - and refused to accept the findings in the civil trial, often based on qualms over where it was held.
But it’s still interesting to see some Republicans condeming the former US President - knowing it could cost them local support - and to see a few of Trump’s political ‘friends’ refusing to speak openly about the case.
So it remains to be seen, extraordinarily, whether being found liable for sexual assault and defamation will impact Trump’s chances of returning to the White House. It’s likely his avid supporters will, as they have many times before, stick by his side, while his critics have further ammunition.
The sway therefore might be seen in those who tread more of a middle ground and may have previously voted for Trump without too much fervour. But then again, Trump is someone who attracts extreme opinions - so the jury’s still out on this one.