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Hawley, Schmitt stand by Trump after jury finds former president liable for sexual abuse

Missouri’s Republican senators are sticking with former President Donald Trump after a jury found the former president liable for sexual abusing former journalist E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s and defaming her after she went public with her allegations in 2019.

A Manhattan grand jury made up of six men and three women awarded Carroll $5 million after concluding that Trump had sexually abused her in a changing room at Bergdorf Goodman and for later defaming her in posts on Truth Social but acquitted him for rape.

“I haven’t paid much attention to the case,” said Sen. Eric Schmitt. “I know it’s under appeal. I wish people were paying closer attention to the fact that the Biden administration is coordinating with the government to silence speech.”

Schmitt endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary in February. In doing so, he backed a former president who was twice impeached, refused to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, encouraged a mob of his supporters to go to the U.S. Capitol and who is under investigation by the Department of Justice for his handling of classified documents after leaving office and a Georgia prosecutor over his efforts to overturn the presidential election results in the state.

He stuck with his endorsement after Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury over allegations that he was involved in a scheme to prevent porn star Stormy Daniels from talking about their affair.

Schmitt’s endorsement is, in a way, returning a favor to the former president. In a contentious Republican primary in Missouri, Trump endorsed “Eric,” refusing to distinguish between Schmitt and former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Trump’s decision not to solely endorse Greitens helped Schmitt win the primary against someone who many deemed a liability in a general election.

Schmitt called Trump’s endorsement of him full-throated.

As Trump is leading Republicans in the 2024 presidential primary most members of his party, like Schmitt, are standing behind him amid a slew of unprecedented legal challenges that followed the former president’s actions after he left office.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said he thinks the jury’s ruling will do little to change the mind of Republicans who support Trump. Hawley has not endorsed a candidate in the primary, but has said he believes Trump will be the nominee.

“People think that the criminal justice system — and I know this isn’t criminal but the New York legal system is — this is my sense of what people think the Republican side — is that it’s off the rails when it comes to Trump,” Hawley said. “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’ll affect it. But I just kind of doubt it.”

Trump has been leading in early polls of the Republican primary. His closest opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has seen falling support across the country, even though he has yet to formally declare his campaign.

Even in polls of the general electorate, Trump has largely been tied with President Joe Biden, who appears to have tepid support from members of his own political party. A recent Washington Post/ABC poll found that most Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults want the party to nominate someone other than Biden. That same poll found that Biden was trailing Trump by 7 percentage points.

The continued Republican support for Trump could explain why so many of the party’s lawmakers are rallying behind the former president. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, said he was aware of the headline but wouldn’t comment on the jury’s decision in the high-profile case.

“I can tell you that people back home are concerned about the price of groceries, they’re concerned about their safety and security,” Marshall said. “I want to wait till the details come out.”