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Alabama Senator among Donald Trump's GOP allies at adult film star hush money trial

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., left and Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right arrive at a press conference across the street from the Manhattan criminal court, Monday, May 13, 2024, in New York. Trump was accompanied to court Monday by some of his top congressional surrogates, including Vance and Tuberville. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)
Stefan Jeremiah/AP
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FR171756 AP
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., left and Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right arrive at a press conference across the street from the Manhattan criminal court, Monday, May 13, 2024, in New York. Trump was accompanied to court Monday by some of his top congressional surrogates, including Vance and Tuberville. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator was among the Republican lawmakers sitting behind Donald Trump during what could be critical testimony during his hush money trial. With Donald Trump barred from publicly attacking the key witness in his hush money trial, his campaign brought to court a phalanx of Republican elected officials to speak for him.

Perhaps Alabama U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville’s harshest criticism was of New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The Republican lawmaker accused the D.A. of attending the testimony of Trump fixer Michael Cohen like it was his Super Bowl. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to an adult film star before the 2016 election.

Tuberville’s comment as Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen took the stand on Monday to allege that the former president instructed him to silence stories that could have hurt his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump, who is balancing the demands of a felony trial with his third run for the White House, has been prohibited by a judge's gag order from criticizing witnesses and already fined for violating the restrictions. Outside court with Vance, Tuberville on Monday questioned the citizenship of the jurors and portrayed Bragg as a publicity-seeker.

"And I guess it is, to be noticed. But that's what's happening in this country,” he said. The Republican candidate for president of the United States is going through mental anguish in a courtroom. That's very depressing."

Tuberville was joined by Ohio U.S. Senator J.D. Vance.

"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," said U.S. Senator JD Vance of Ohio said outside the courthouse Monday during a morning break.

Vance, widely seen as a contender to be Trump's vice presidential pick, was part of a group that arrived at court with Trump and stood behind him as he addressed reporters before heading into the courtroom. It was the biggest single showing of the allies joining Trump in court for the hush money trial since it began last month. Vance was once a harsh critic who said he "can't stomach Trump" and called him "noxious." Now, he is a close ally who will appear with Trump at an Ohio fundraiser on Wednesday, when the trial will be on break.

Bringing allies to court allowed Trump's campaign to press his message without violating the gag order. It also gave those allies a high-profile platform to demonstrate loyalty to their party's presumptive nominee and perhaps audition for higher office. Others in the group included U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, and a pair of attorneys general, Steve Marshall of Alabama and Brenna Bird of Iowa.

There have been one-off supportive trial appearances already, when allies including U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton came to court with Trump. Both Scott and Paxton have been through legal troubles of their own, and have railed against what they call politically motivated prosecutions — a message that echoes Trump's own. Scott's appearance came on another pivotal day in the case, as porn actor Stormy Daniels testified about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Outside the courthouse, Scott said Merchan's daughter is "a political operative and raises money for Democrats" — a criticism prohibited for Trump himself by his gag order, which bans him from making or directing others to make public statements about people connected to the case, including the judge's family. Scott denied his presence had anything specifically to do with the gag order.

Trump's attorneys have argued against the gag order, saying the former president should be allowed to respond to Daniels' testimony, but Merchan has refused a request to modify it. According to Trump's campaign, all of his courthouse guests have volunteered to appear to support the former president and were not explicitly invited by the campaign to do so.

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