MUSCOGEE COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) — Former President Donald Trump is now a criminal defendant charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Prosecutors say the charges stem from a series of hush-money payments during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday after being arrested in Manhattan — an arrest local political leaders are responding to.

“My response to his arrest is that no matter who you are, no matter what party you represent, if you commit a crime, you have to pay for it,” Tonza Thomas, Chair of Muscogee County Democratic Committee said. “When I saw him being arrested yesterday, I was like, ‘finally.’ It’s unprecedented, but at the same time you should follow the rules.”

“My response is this indictment has exposed that a Soros-funded D.A. is following through on a campaign promise,” Carmen Rice, Chair of Muscogee County Republican Party told WRBL. “And that campaign promise has taken precedent in his job. Rather than focus on the crimes that are happening in New York City, he has chosen to focus on Donald Trump and find crimes that fit.”

Trump himself has said the indictment is politically motivated, a belief that is shared with Rice.

“I absolutely believe that it is in place, it was part of this D.A.’s job to charge him, to try to remove him from being a candidate in the 2024 election,” Rice said. “Like I said before, we are united in this cause to not weaponize our judicial system.”

However, Thomas has a different opinion.

“This is not about political parties. This is not about upsetting the 2024 election season. This is about we had information before, we didn’t have enough, now we have enough. Let’s bring the charges. So, it’s fair,” Thomas said.

In addition to this, Trump could face additional charges out of Georgia as a Fulton County District Attorney continues to investigate his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

This investigation is centered around a phone call days before the January 6th insurrection in 2021. The former president called Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and said, “Look Brad, I gotta get, I have to find 12,000 votes.”

Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection. Tuesday upon the returning to Mar-a-Lago following his arrest in Manhattan, Trump described the phone call with Raffensperger as an, ‘absolutely perfect phone call.’

“I believe that the Fulton County D.A. got it right,” Thomas said. “You have a secretary of state in the same party that is not going by his rules of finding votes. You can’t find votes. The people have spoken. And so, yes, he should be indicted. He should be arrested and brought to Georgia to answer to those charges.”

Rice believes the additional charges will not follow.

“I think the people are getting really tired of this attempt to sabotage him. And every time they do, it’s making him stronger. So, I don’t believe that we’re going to see more, but we’ll be prepared either way,” Rice said.

While the former president defends himself in court, his presidential campaign continues with growing support.

“I think inadvertently that it has made him stronger than ever. Part of that is because it’s just removed the divide that has been part of his candidacy, even within our party at times. I think it’s made him stronger. And whether he’s the nominee or not, our party is going to be strong and support whoever the candidate is,” Rice shared.

Thomas believes it is time Trump’s campaign comes to an end.

“Just go ahead and lock him up. up. We were hearing in all of 2016, ‘Lock her up. Lock her up.’ This is 2023, lock him up,” Thomas said. “Just like when he was the producer of The Apprentice, Donald Trump, you’re fired.”

Trump’s campaign has raised more than $8 million since news of the indictment first broke.

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