Who Kissed the Ring At the Trump Trial?

A catalogue of figures big and small that came to pay homage to Donald Trump.
A crowd of people including former Acting United States Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (2nd ), Donald Trump Jr. (3rd L), US Representative Ronny Jackson (4th L), Republican of Texas, US Senator Eric Schmitt, Repub... A crowd of people including former Acting United States Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (2nd ), Donald Trump Jr. (3rd L), US Representative Ronny Jackson (4th L), Republican of Texas, US Senator Eric Schmitt, Republican of Missouri, (3rd R), Representative Troy Nehls (2nd R), Republican of Texas, and radio host Sebastian Gorka (R) watch as former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the press as he arrives for his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 21, 2024. After approximately five weeks, 19 witnesses, reams of documents and a dash of salacious testimony, the prosecution against Donald Trump rested its case May 20, 2024, handing over to the defense before closing arguments expected next week. (Photo by JUSTIN LANE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN LANE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Dozens of Republican political figures, ranging from the Speaker of the House to little-known state attorneys general, came to touch the hem at Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial.

They were big and they were small; some spent all day in the alternately freezing and sweltering courtroom, while others popped into the courtroom hallway, briefly, before emerging outside to give a statement to the media.

And as the trial progressed, Trump’s retinue mushroomed. What started off as a lonely experience, with only Trump’s attorneys flanking him in the trial’s opening days, metastasized into a larger entourage than could fit into the courtroom’s reserved seating. Trump consigliere Boris Epshteyn coordinated the seating, rearranging those who came to show their support in the rows behind the President.

Towards the end of testimony, the Trump campaign began to send out lists of which MAGA-aligned celebrities were on tap. They included not just office-holders but figures like Hells Angels leader Chuck Zito, accent-haver Sebastian Gorka, and other luminaries like Bernie Kerik and Alan Dershowitz.

I looked through my own notes from the trial, and reviewed other’s coverage, to try to quantify this. How many had come to kiss the ring? Who were they?

My list is non-exhaustive, but includes four senators, four current state attorneys general, one governor, and at least 23 members of Congress who came to show their respect to Trump in his hour of need.

These people served another apparent purpose: a show of force. Michael Cohen, for example, hit the emotional crescendo of his testimony when he began to describe how he chose to leave Trump’s embrace and plead guilty. He described a heart-wrenching conversation in which his family asked if he was loyal to Trump, or to them.

At that exact moment, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and erstwhile GOP presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy entered the normally placid courtroom. It caused a stir to those seated in the gallery, though it did not seem to affect Cohen’s composure.

Burgum was the only state governor to appear. The state attorneys general for Iowa, Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas were there, along with former Florida AG Pam Bondi. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) came on the last day of testimony.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, himself no stranger to criminal processes, was among the first to kiss the ring when he came to court on April 30; Trump later said that he would consider nominating Paxton for U.S. attorney general if he wins in November. (The trial has already seen two other wannabe U.S. attorneys general appear: former acting AG Matthew Whitaker, who preceded Bill Barr, made an appearance, while the infamous Jeff Clark came for a morning to the overflow room.)

And while state officials were happy to show their support, it was federal elected officials that caused the biggest stir.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) was the first senator to appear, showing up on May 9 and doing what Trump could not, per the terms of a gag order: attack prosecutors and members of the judge’s family. In the weeks after, Sens. JD Vance (R-OH), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Eric Schmitt (R-MO) all appeared.

House Republicans were by far the biggest contingent. Many who came only made it within the courthouse, and were unable to be seated.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) came to the courthouse but, as far as I could tell, never entered the courtroom itself. Instead, he delivered a press conference in the park in front of the building, decrying the prosecution.

The House Freedom Caucus came in force, as seen in the photo below:

Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida; Anna Paulina Luna of Florida; Lauren Boebert of Colorado; and Bob Good of Virginia, Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Eli Crane (R-AZ), Mike Waltz (R-FL), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Andy Ogles (R-TN) all came that day.

Before that, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) and Reps. Cory Mills (R-FL) and Byron Donalds (R-FL) had already come.

As testimony barreled to a close with Cohen remaining on the stand, more House GOP members began to show. They included Reps. Eric Burlison (R-MO), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Mary Miller (R-IL), Keith Self (R-TX), Daniel Webster (R-FL), Dan Meuser (R-PA), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Troy Nehls (R-TX), Dale Strong (R-AL), and Maria Salazar (R-FL).

There was a semi-permanent cast of Trumpworld figures rotating in and out of the courthouse, as well. Epshteyn, the legal coordinator, helped arrange seating for Trump’s many guests. Eric Trump and attorney Alina Habba appeared many days; aide Natalie Harp, armed with a printer to feed Trump positive stories, also appeared throughout.

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