‘Politically motivated’ vs. ‘justice being served’: McHenry County political figures react to Trump indictment

Both Republicans and Democrats think indictment, deserved or not, could be problematic

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at the South Carolina Statehouse, Jan. 28, 2023, in Columbia, S.C. A special grand jury that investigated efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn his election loss in Georgia is expressing concerns that some of the witnesses called to testify may have lied under oath. The panel recommends that the district attorney “seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.”  But the report does not name the people who are alleged to have lied. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

McHenry County Board Chair Mike Buehler on Thursday called the indictment against former President Donald Trump “politically motivated,” while the county’s Democratic Party Chair Kristina Zahorik said it’s “justice being served.”

Trump, 76, was indicted on charges related to payments made to cover up an extramarital sexual encounter during his presidential campaign run in 2016. It is the first time a criminal case has been brought against a former U.S. president.

Reports of the indictment came from Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, who told The Associated Press that he heard a grand jury, who had been meeting for months, voted to indict the former president.

While the specific charges were not made public on Thursday, political figures in McHenry County shared their thoughts on the pending case.

Buehler said he viewed the indictment as an effort to keep Trump from another successful bid for the White House in 2024.

“Whether or not you like Trump, it seems painfully obvious that the Democrats are going to do anything they can to make sure he isn’t reelected,” Buehler said.

Republican State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, whose district includes parts of Huntley, declined to comment on how Trump’s indictment may impact the former president’s third bid for the White House, but said the process is playing out as it should.

“The opportunity to have a legal process in place like we do with our court system is a cornerstone to our democracy,” Keicher said. “And I look forward to seeing the process work its way through the normal course of events.”

You have very, very, very emotional people on both sides of this equation.

—  McHenry County Republican Party Chair Jeff Thorsen

Zahorik said she looked “forward to justice being served.”

“Our country was founded on the rule of law and the belief that no person, no matter how powerful or influential, is above the law,” Zahorik said.

Former McHenry County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Bissett said he is concerned about protests and unrest.

“No one should be happy that a former president is indicted, but it had to happen,” Bissett said. “The legal system applies to everyone.”

Illinois State Rep. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, said he thinks the indictment sets “a very dangerous and divisive precedent” that could be abused in future generations.

Former Illinois State Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat, said his initial reaction to the news was “disappointment.”

“I think our country needs to move on,” said Franks, who also previously served as McHenry County Board chairman. “To be clear, nobody is above the law. But I think it is a dark day for our country, to have a former president indicted.”

McHenry County GOP Chair Jeff Thorsen said he thinks the indictment is a bad decision from the Democrats perspective and once all said and done, nothing will come from any charges.

The charges could bring his party together, Thorsen said, but overall will only make the political divide in the country worse.

“You have very, very, very emotional people on both sides of this equation,” Thorsen said. “With the country at this level of discontent, you don’t need an additional thing.”

McHenry County Board Member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, said while she was surprised at the indictment, “democracy has its checks and balances. We have to, to survive. [The indictment] is an example of these checks and balances.”

In previous months and years, Trump has denied wrongdoing on his part in relation to the investigation, which was carried out by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, a Republican, declined to comment on the indictment.

While noting he’s not an attorney, Buehler hasn’t been convinced Trump was involved in any criminal activity, but said that will be up for the courts to decide.

He added that he was not aware of any protests planned in McHenry County following the indictment, but said he would not attend one if there was, again deferring to the courts.

Thorsen also said he wasn’t aware of any and would rather see any energy generated from this going toward helping like-minded candidates gear up for a 2024 run.

The charges follow years of investigations into Trump’s personal and political business.

Along with the indictment, a district attorney in Atlanta has been investigating Trump for two years in relation to meddling in the 2020 election. The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating Trump related to classified documents he was keeping at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.

The Associated Press and DeKalb Daily Chronicle editor Kelsey Rettke contributed to this story.