Sens. Thune, Rounds, Gov. Noem slam 'political' indictment of former President Trump

The comments from some of South Dakota's statewide leaders come as a Manhattan district attorney unveiled 34 counts of alleged financial crimes.

South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson, Sen. Mike Rounds and Sen. John Thune greet President Donald Trump in Sioux Falls in 2018.
Argus Leader file photo, via South Dakota News Watch

PIERRE, S.D. — Several of South Dakota’s state leaders are ripping the “political” prosecution of former President Donald Trump.

In a series of statements this week, Gov. Kristi Noem; South Dakota Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds; and Rep. Dusty Johnson made clear their opposition to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s set of 34 charges against the former president for falsifying business records.

Trump pleaded not guilty during an unprecedented April 4 hearing, the first case in American history of a president subject to a criminal proceeding.

For his part, the former president has remained solid in his innocence and the political nature of the prosecution.

“I never thought anything like this could happen in America, never thought it could happen,” he said at a Mar-a-Lago appearance hours after the hearing. “The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”


The Manhattan prosecutor alleges that Trump “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records,” partially in relation to hush money payments to women over claims of extramarital affairs that, according to Bragg, “hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”

So far, Rounds has been the lone South Dakota politician to specifically call out the legal strategy of the Bragg camp, saying the district attorney was attempting to “bootstrap multiple underlying [misdemeanor] crimes in order to elevate these charges to a felony level.”

Falsifying business records in New York is a misdemeanor crime. However, for each count provided, the indictment accused Trump of acting “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof,” at present a nebulous attachment that elevates each of the crimes to a felony.

In an April 4 tweet, Noem hit Bragg for pursuing the Trump prosecution in the face of rising crime within the city, saying he “needs to get his priorities straight.”

“A majority of Americans believe that this prosecution of President Trump is political,” she wrote. “So do I.”

Noem is referencing a CNN poll that found that 72% of Americans believe politics played at least “some role” in the indictment, with just over half of all respondents believing it played a “major role.”

Despite that, the same poll found that about 60% of Americans support the indictment.

In a statement to Forum News Service on April 6, Johnson noted he had "refrained from commenting on the charges" until he reviewed the indictment; upon review, Johnson said it "only elevated [his] fears that they are politically motivated."


"Like all of us, former President Trump deserves his day in court, and a jury of citizens will hear his case, weigh the evidence and render judgment,” Johnson said.

Rounds, who has not been shy with objections to past statements and actions by Trump, criticized the charges as having “called into question” the “integrity of our justice system” because of a “politically motivated district attorney.”

“While everyone, including the former president, is subject to the laws of this country, no one should be singled out for political purposes,” Rounds said in a statement on April 4. “Unfortunately, this soap opera of a prosecution appears to be just that.”

In an April 5 statement, Thune, the second-in-command Republican in the Senate, struck similar chords to his counterpart in the South Dakota delegation.

“I understand that this is the beginning of a legal process, not the end of one, but after an initial review of the details, this indictment looks like a political agenda run amok,” he wrote. “It’s becoming increasingly clear why previous district attorneys opted against prosecution.”

The comments come within a Republican Party united in opposition to the indictment.

Even Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who in the same statement called Trump “unfit for office,” made similar points to his colleagues representing South Dakota.

“The prosecutor’s overreach sets a dangerous precedent for criminalizing political opponents and damages the public’s faith in our justice system,” he wrote.


“We have to think about what our priorities are, especially considering the threats we face around the world,” South Dakota U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds said.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at
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