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WASHINGTON — Embracing Donald Trump’s strategy of blaming the U.S. justice system after his historic guilty verdict, Republicans in Congress are fervently enlisting themselves in his campaign of vengeance and political retribution as the GOP runs to reclaim the White House.

Maria Elvira Salazar, the Republican who represents Key Biscayne in the House, has joined in the attacks on the jury verdict. And she may be on Donald Trump’s list of potential running mates.

“We are in mourning,” Salazar posted to her Instagram account after the verdict. “We have entered the list of banana countries, where political differences are battled in the courts and not the ballot box.”

Salazar has stepped up her ties to Trump in recent weeks, including a visit to the New York courthouse where a jury convicted the former president on 34 felony charges. She claimed that unspecified “forces” were “manipulating the court system against him” at a May 21 news conference.

Last week, CNN reported that Salazar was under consideration by the Trump campaign after her comparison of the New York proceedings to political persecution in Cuba and Venezuela. The Independent sent a message to Salazar’s office seeking comment on the CNN report.

Almost no Republican official has stood up to suggest Trump should not be the party’s presidential candidate for the November election — in fact, some have sought to hasten his nomination. Few others dared to defend the legitimacy of the New York state court that heard the hush money case or the 12 jurors who unanimously rendered their verdict.

And those Republicans who expressed doubts about Trump’s innocence or political viability, including his former hawkish national security adviser John Bolton or top-tier Senate candidate Larry Hogan of Maryland, were instantly bullied by the former president’s enforcers and told to “leave the party.”

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The swift, strident and deepening commitment to Trump despite his felony conviction shows how fully Republican leaders and lawmakers have been infused with his unfounded grievances of a “rigged” system and dangerous conspiracies of “weaponized” government, using them in their own attacks on President Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Rather than shunning Trump’s escalating authoritarian language or ensuring they will provide checks and balances for a second Trump term, the Republican senators and representatives are upturning longstanding faith in U.S. governance and setting the stage for what they plan to do if Trump regains power.

On Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, demanded the prosecutors Alvin Bragg and Matthew Colangelo appear for a June hearing on the “weaponization of the federal government.” and “the unprecedented political prosecution” of Trump — even though Biden, as president, has no authority over the state courts in New York.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, also being considered as a Trump running mate, joined seven senators in saying he would block all of Biden’s nominees in the Senate, as well as bills unrelated to public safety. Fellow Sen. Rick Scott said that everyone who calls themselves a party leader “must stand up and condemn” what he called “lawless election interference.”

“What we’re gearing up for is if Trump wins, he’s going to use the apparatus of the state to target his political opponents,” said Jason Stanley, a professor at Yale and the author of “How Fascism Works.”

Stanley said history is full of examples of people not believing the rhetoric of authoritarians, until it was too late.  “Believe what they say,” he said. “He’s literally telling you he’s going to use the apparatus of the state to target his political opponents.”

In Miami, both Democrats seeking to unseat Salazar criticized her deepening embrace of Trump.

“Her words attacking our justice system are dangerous and undemocratic,” said Lucía Baez-Gellar in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter.

Mike Davey, a former Key Biscayne mayor, questioned her potential selection as a Trump running mate. “Over and over, my opponent chooses to engage in political theater,” he said in a fundraising text message, calling Salazar a “far-right extremist.”  Davey and Baez-Gellar square off in an Aug. 20 primary for the Democratic nomination.

Trump was found guilty of trying to influence the 2016 election by falsifying payment to a porn actor to bury her story of an affair. He faces three other felony indictments, including the federal case over his effort to overturn the 2020 election. But they are not likely to be heard before November’s expected election rematch with Biden.

Thursday’s verdict came after a jury in 2023 found Trump to be liable for sexual abuse against advice columnist E. Jean Carroll and a judge in a 2024 business fraud case determined that Trump lied about his wealth for years, ordering him to pay a staggering $355 million in penalties.

This story was reported by the AP’s Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick and the KBI’s Tony Winton

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