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How are Republicans reacting to Trump's claims that he'll be arrested?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What do you do when the leader of your political party faces a criminal investigation?

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Well, Republicans who control the House are supporting Donald Trump once again. The lawmakers are meeting in Florida, where they had planned to talk over legislative priorities. But the ex-president seized attention by predicting his own indictment in New York today. He hasn't been indicted. But here's what we know about the case. People close to Trump paid an adult film star to cover up her story of an affair. That led to an investigation by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, into falsifying business records.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh has been listening to Republicans as they respond to this in Orlando, Fla. Hey there, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I hope the spring weather is good down there.

WALSH: It's pretty nice.

INSKEEP: That's good. How are Republicans defending Trump?

WALSH: They're really standing with him. And they're all largely attacking the New York prosecutor. Centrist Republicans, hard line Republicans are all hammering the same message. They say Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's investigation is politically motivated. And they say it's an abuse of power. House Speaker McCarthy kicked off the press conference down here for this retreat, fielding numerous questions about Trump's claim that he could get arrested. And also, he was asked about the former president's call for supporters to protest. McCarthy repeatedly slammed Bragg. He keeps saying he's playing politics with an investigation. But the speaker did break with Trump, saying he did not think people should protest.

INSKEEP: We should note House Republicans now have power. They have the power to investigate. They have the power of oversight. Are they using that at all when it comes to the former president?

WALSH: They are. They are using it to launch their own investigation of that New York prosecutor, Alvin Bragg.

INSKEEP: Wait. Not investigating Trump, investigating the prosecutor who's investigating Trump. Is that correct?

WALSH: That's correct.

INSKEEP: OK. Go on.

WALSH: Three committee chair - House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, House Oversight Chairman Jim Comer and House Administration Committee Bryan Steil - sent a joint letter yesterday demanding Bragg turn over documents, appear in person before their panels. Jordan told reporters yesterday they all want details about Bragg's probe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM JORDAN: It's obvious that this is a sham. And something that we want to know - were federal funds involved? Did this stem from - it sure looks like it grew out of the special counsel investigation because those are the legislative concerns we have as Congress.

WALSH: In their letter, they raised questions about whether any federal money that the DA's office received was involved in this particular probe. Bragg, for his part, has not indicated any timeline for when his investigation may be completed. He's just saying he's going to continue to follow the facts.

INSKEEP: I guess it's a familiar story that the political conversation is all about Donald Trump, as it has often been in the past, and less about what Congress might do, what legislation might pass. Do House Republican leaders have anything they want to do themselves?

WALSH: They do. I mean, they are talking about hearings on the banking crisis, passing bills dealing with border security. They have a parents' bill of rights they're talking about that's coming up on the floor soon. But Donald Trump still looms really large over the Republican Party. And this controversy has just really stepped all over their message down here. It just shows he continues to be the dominant player.

Lawmakers are denouncing the prosecutor and echoing Trump's message about political bias. But they're not really commenting on the former president's behavior. They're just sort of dismissing the whole thing as, oh, this is all about politics. But privately, I have spoken with several Republicans down here in Orlando who represent swing districts. Some of them are ready to move on and potentially get behind another top Republican on the ticket in 2024, someone like the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. But he hasn't announced he's running for president. And I will say, lawmakers are really reluctant to get crosswise with the Republican base because Donald Trump is still really popular with their voters.

INSKEEP: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks so much.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh
Deirdre Walsh is a congressional correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk.
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.