Georgia's Republican governor pushes back on Trump, and more campaign trail takeaways

Elsewhere, Democrats teased a potential Senate hopeful in Florida.

August 15, 2023, 7:16 PM

Following a pattern established by three previous indictments, former president and current 2024 White House hopeful Donald Trump was charged for a fourth time, this time in Georgia, late on Monday night -- and quickly denounced the case as other Republicans backed up his claims of a dual justice system.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis defended the indictment brought against Trump and 18 others, related to efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

She said in a press conference: "The indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia's legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election results."

Trump's campaign called the Georgia charges "un-American and wrong," and Trump said he will be releasing a report backing up his false contention that he won Georgia three years ago -- drawing a stern rebuke from the state's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

Here's what to know from the trail.

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 12, 2023.
Scott Morgan/Reuters

Republicans follow Trump's lead

Notable conservatives quickly echoed Trump's attacks on the charges after the Georgia indictment was filed, insisting -- as with the other charges -- that the case is politically motivated.

"Americans see through this desperate sham," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

"He did nothing wrong!" Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, wrote on X.

Some people supporting other Republican primary campaigns said the responses from party leaders sparked memories of the reaction following Trump's previous indictments, all of which he denies.

"This will be the same as the other indictments regarding the politics, meaning a polling and fundraising plus," said one GOP lobbyist backing another campaign.

"But this one seems more ominous on the legal jeopardy front," this person warned. "I am worried that this one might be the one that really hurts" in the general election next year.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp delivers the State of the State address at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Atlanta.
Alex Slitz/AP, FILE

Trump says he'll respond with a report

Trump posted on Truth Social that he plans to hold a press conference next Monday to discuss the indictment and said he would release a "Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT" and that there would be "a complete EXONERATION!"

Trump and his legal team have thus far failed to provide evidence of the massive election fraud they claim robbed the former president of reelection in 2020 -- a baseless accusation that has been rejected by local elections officials and the courts.

Pushing back on Tuesday was Kemp, who has drawn Trump's ire by refuting election fraud claims and easily fended off a Trump-backed primary challenger last year.

"The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen. For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward - under oath - and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor," Kemp wrote on X. "The future of our country is at stake in 2024 and that must be our focus."

Ramaswamy seems to put timeline on his Taiwan 'commitment'

Entrepreneur and GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy appeared to put a clock on when it would be acceptable to him -- if he were in the White House -- for China to invade Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that has bipartisan support in Washington but which Beijing regards as a breakaway province.

In an interview on Monday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Ramaswamy suggested he would discourage China from invading Taiwan -- at least until the U.S. sufficiently builds up its own infrastructure of semiconductor manufacturing, which is crucial for the use of computers.

"And after that, our commitments to Taiwan, our commitments to be willing to go to military conflict, will change after that, because that's rationally in our self-interest," Ramaswamy said.

Republican presidential candidate businessman Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at an event in St. Clair Shores, Mich., Aug. 14, 2023.
Paul Sancya/AP

Pro-Ukraine Republican group launches

While Republican presidential candidates debate the extent to which the U.S. should support Ukraine against Russia's invasion -- a reflection of a divide that has emerged among different flanks of the party -- an outside group urging support for Kyiv got off the ground on Tuesday.

Republicans for Ukraine, formed by the nonprofit Defending Democracy Together, is putting testimonials from GOP voters urging support for Ukraine in new ads, with the group saying on its website that "the GOP has always stood for a strong national defense, supporting America's friends, and standing up to its enemies."

"Now is no time to give up the fight."

Republican skeptics of Ukraine aid argue that the U.S. has more pressing domestic priorities and that the significant financial support risks waste or fraud, though supporters of the money say they welcome oversight and transparency.

Dems will soon make their Florida Senate pick

In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday afternoon, Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that his party will announce very soon whom they will back to challenge incumbent Florida Sen. Rick Scott next year.

Peters dodged a question on whether the DSCC had a contingency plan in the event that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who is reportedly considering a presidential bid, does not seek reelection -- which would complicate the calculus for holding onto the upper chamber, currently split 51-49.

Peters also sidestepped a question on a possible three-way race for Arizona's open Senate seat, responding that it is "too early to say" whether the DSCC will support the eventual Democratic nominee in a bid against independent Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic Party last year but often still votes with them.

ABC News' Fritz Farrow, Laura Gersony and Kendall Ross contributed to this report.

Related Topics