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GOP leaders, Trump loyalists on Capitol Hill rally behind former president after indictment

(CNN) — Key House Republican leaders lined up to defend former President Donald Trump on Thursday following the news that Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury — a sign of the powerful grasp Trump still has on his party on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted that “The American people will not tolerate this injustice,” as he criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “The House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account,” he said.

The number two House Republican — Majority Leader Steve Scalise — called it “outrageous.” In a tweet, Scalise called the indictment “one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP conference chair, released a statement saying the indictment was “a political witch hunt” and a “dark day for America.”

The response from key congressional Republicans came as the indictment against Trump was filed under seal and will be announced in the coming days. The charges are not publicly known at this time, one source told CNN.

The news of the indictment broke just hours after lawmakers on Capitol Hill departed for a two-week Easter recess. The halls of the Capitol were quiet. On social media, Republicans were much louder.

It was only a matter of minutes after news of the indictment broke before some of his fiercest defenders on Capitol Hill rushed to his defense.

“Outrageous,” House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan tweeted.

“BREAKING: Trump has been indicted! This is another political witch hunt targeting the people’s President,” Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted.

“President Donald Trump always fought for us. He puts the American people above corrupt interests. For that reason alone, the powerful will never stop coming for him,” Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida tweeted.

“President Donald J. Trump has just been indicted by an extremist NY District Attorney. No President of the United States has ever been criminally indicted. Trump Derangement Syndrome has infiltrated our judicial system and if they can come for him, they can come for anyone,” Rep. Andy Biggs tweeted.

A handful of senators were quick to jump in as well to criticize the Manhattan District Attorney.

“This indictment doesn’t pass the smell test,” Sen. Thom Tillis said in a statement. “The Department of Justice already looked into the facts and decided there was no case to be made against President Trump. This is the same District Attorney who is notorious for letting violent criminals off the hook in Manhattan, but has been laser focused on pursuing a politicized prosecution of a former President.”

One moderate Republican held back from immediately assailing Bragg or the indictment, a marked departure from many of his colleagues.

“I trust the system,” Rep. Don Bacon told CNN. “We have a judge. We have jurors. There is appeals. So I think in the end, justice will be done. If he’s guilty it will show up. But if not, I think that will be shown too.”

Even before an indictment, three Republican chairmen including Jordan, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and House Administration Committee Bryan Steil sent a letter requesting testimony from Bragg and information related to his investigation. Bragg’s office pushed back, but the Republican chairmen have doubled down.