Trump allies, potential VP contenders flock to Manhattan courthouse

Sen. J.D. Vance (left, red tie)(R-OH) looks on as former US President Donald Trump speaks to the media at his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court, in New York City, on May 13, 2024. (Spencer Platt/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Political allies of former President Donald Trump, many of whom are possibly jockeying for future positions with him, have begun to attend his New York hush money criminal trial as it enters its fourth week, highlighting how Trump has attempted to make New York his campaign stomping grounds in the wake of his required court attendance.

On Tuesday, Trump's former Republican challenger and now staunch supporter Vivek Ramaswamy is expected to attend court with him, according to his spokesperson. His appearance follows attendance from Republican Sens. J.D. Vance and Tommy Tuberville, New York GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, and Republican state attorneys general -- Steve Marshall of Alabama and Brenna Bird of Iowa -- on Monday. Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott traveled with Trump to court last week.

Those who have appeared with Trump have highlighted the gag order the former president is under, which prevents him from speaking about potential witnesses, jurors, prosecutors or court staff and their families.

Trump has already been found to have violated the gag order 10 times, and now as Judge Juan Merchan threatens Trump with a potential jail sentence should he violate the order again, the lawmakers attending court have begun to make the attacks for him.

On Monday, Vance, who is seen as a contender to be Trump's vice president, attempted to discredit Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer, who testified on Monday.

"This guy is a convicted felon," Vance said about Cohen outside the Manhattan courthouse. "Does any reasonable, sensible person believe anything that Michael Cohen says?"

"The thing that the president is prevented from saying, which is a disgrace, is that every single person involved in this prosecution is practically a Democratic political operative," he continued.

The statements from the politicians have begun to echo Trump's previous statements and talking points. The former president previously shared multiple articles attacking Judge Merchan's daughter, who is a digital advertising consultant with Democratic clients, before prosecutors asked, and were granted, an expanded gag order to include family members.

The appearances have also been a show of loyalty as Trump wades through a large list of potential ticketmates with no plans of choosing a vice presidential candidate anytime soon, he said in April.

"Well, I'm not in a rush and we'll do it sometime around the convention, but we have a lot of great people in the Republican Party," Trump said in an interview with ABC affiliate WPVI-TV in April, when asked about a potential vice presidential candidate.

The surrogates have been able to use their New York visits to make news media appearances to reiterate Trump's political and legal messages as he remains stuck in court. At the same time, it gives them a chance to prove themselves as a possible running mate.

Vice presidential hopefuls have also appeared alongside Trump at the limited campaign events he has held during his days off from court. They have also been special guests at numerous fundraisers.

This past weekend as he rallied in Wildwood, New Jersey, Trump teased "something" with North Dakota GOP Gov. Doug Burgum, who endorsed Trump after suspending his own presidential bid late last year. Burgum was also a guest speaker over the weekend.

"He made his money in technology, but he probably knows more about energy than anybody I know, so get ready for something," Trump said. "OK, just get ready. But Doug Burgum has been incredible."

In fundraising emails over the last few weeks, the Trump campaign has been asking his supporters who they want to see as his running mate, at the same time fundraising small-dollar donations off their curiosity over who it would be -- even as the former president himself has repeatedly said he doesn't plan to make his announcement until closer to the Republican National Convention this summer.

Now, in the coming weeks, a slew of his vice presidential hopefuls are also joining him at campaign fundraisers as he courts wealthy donors during his time away from the trial.

On Tuesday, Republican Sens. Tim Scott and Marco Rubio, and GOP Govs. Burgum and Kristi Noem of South Dakota are set to join Trump at a high-dollar fundraiser in Manhattan, hosted by billionaire financier Howard Lutnick.

Other major Republican donors and fundraisers are cohosting, including former Trump ambassadors Duke Buchan and Woody Johnson, Seryl and Charles Kushner, billionaire John Paulson, who had hosted the Palm Beach fundraiser last month where Trump raised $50 billion, and John Catsimatidis, the WABC owner who reportedly canceled Rudy Giuliani's radio show over false election claims.

On Wednesday, on his day off from the trial, Vance will join Trump again, this time at a luncheon fundraiser in Cincinnati, Ohio. Then later that day, Trump is flying out to Lexington, Kentucky, for another dinner fundraiser, hosted by Joe Craft and former Ambassador Kelly Craft.

On Thursday, Trump is required to spend the day in court, but on Friday, May 17 -- the day he got a day off from court to attend his son Barron Trump's graduation -- Trump is scheduled to headline a fundraiser in Minnesota for the state Republican Party's Lincoln Reagan Dinner.

The fundraisers come as Trump has publicly complained multiple times that his trial is preventing him from traveling to battleground states. However, Trump has spent most of his off-days from court attending closed-door meetings, only holding three campaign rallies since his trial started -- two of which came on the same day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 at 6:04AM by Lalee Ibssa and Soo Rin Kim, ABC News Permalink