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    How Has Trump Changed the GOP? His Criminal-Trial Guest List Tells the Tale.

    Follow our live coverage of Trump’s hush-money trial in Manhattan.

    The Republican Party has changed a lot since Donald J. Trump last spent this much time at Trump Tower.

    Stuck in New York City four days a week during his criminal trial, Mr. Trump is now back in the same penthouse suite where he weathered so many scandals during his 2016 presidential run.

    Back then, Mr. Trump was the Republican nominee, but still very much a party outsider. After the “Access Hollywood” video broke in October 2016 and he was heard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals, he spent the weekend in Trump Tower watching defections. Second-guessing of his candidacy came from across the G.O.P. spectrum, including a canceled event and a public rebuke from the man he had chosen to be his vice president.

    What a difference seven and a half years makes.

    On Monday, a contender to be Mr. Trump’s next vice president, Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, traveled to New York to make a show of solidarity with his party’s presumptive nominee. Mr. Vance began his day at Trump Tower and then went inside the courthouse on the same day that some of the “Access Hollywood” episode was recounted and a secret recording played in which Mr. Trump discussed payoffs to bury harmful stories.

    Mr. Vance was joined by Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, along with Alabama’s attorney general, Iowa’s attorney general and a Republican congresswoman from Staten Island.

    On Tuesday, as the prosecution’s key witness, Michael D. Cohen, was expected to be cross-examined, the speaker of the House was riding to the courthouse in Mr. Trump’s motorcade, along with two other politicians whose names have been in the vice-presidential sweepstakes, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, plus Vivek Ramaswamy, who unsuccessfully ran in the 2024 primary as a pro-Trump alternative.

    “We have a lot of great people here to talk to you,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday, before entering a courtroom he said he had nicknamed “the icebox.”

    The warm embrace was a sign of just how far Mr. Trump’s legal troubles are from making him a party pariah. Instead, the trial over hush-money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels is a staging ground for aspiring politicians to prove their fealty, the latest litmus test in a party increasingly defined by loyalty to Mr. Trump.

    “What’s going on inside that courtroom is a threat to American democracy,” Mr. Vance declared on Monday in a news conference outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan, attacking some people, including the judge’s daughter, that Mr. Trump has been expressly barred from talking about via gag order.

    It was a theme that has emerged from Mr. Trump’s numerous guests: They have been making the trek to New York and amplifying the former president’s talking points, ripping into those Mr. Trump is forbidden from speaking about.

    Other political allies who have come to court include David McIntosh, the head of the Club for Growth, who directed millions of dollars in spending opposing Mr. Trump in 2023 but has since made efforts to get back into his good graces. And there was Senator Rick Scott of Florida and Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas.

    Mr. Trump has at times said he wanted to see a show of support in the streets outside his trial, and a series of aides, plus his son, Eric, have attended the trial itself. A Trump official said that the campaign had not invited the parade of politicians but that allies were volunteering on their own.

    “They chose to show up,” Mr. Trump said as he left the courthouse on Monday. “They view this as a scam.”

    Eight years ago, there was a robust “Never Trump” push inside the party to deny Mr. Trump the nomination. This year, there has been little to no serious discussion inside the G.O.P. of replacing Mr. Trump atop the ticket, even in the case of a criminal conviction before the party’s summer convention.

    Mr. Trump has not changed since 2016. The party has.

    In 2016, Paul D. Ryan was the speaker of the House. He was a pained, publicly reluctant supporter of Mr. Trump. Just last week, Mr. Ryan said he would not vote for Mr. Trump this year. “Character is too important to me,” he said.

    In 2024, Mike Johnson is the speaker of the House. He is a pleased, publicly solicitous endorser of Mr. Trump. Just last week, Mr. Johnson held a news conference on Capitol Hill to amplify one of Mr. Trump’s political obsessions: preventing undocumented immigrants from voting. One of Mr. Trump’s lightning-rod former advisers, Stephen Miller, was by his side.

    Today, to the extent that Mr. Trump has Republican critics, they are increasingly former Republicans, offering their commentary as often on CNN as in the corridors of Congress.

    Mr. Trump has certainly worked to purify the party. He has celebrated the defeat of anyone he views as a disloyal Republican, even those who lost their seats to Democrats.

    “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it,” Mr. Trump said the day after the 2018 midterms, ticking off the names of several Republicans who had just lost as Democrats took control of the chamber.

    “Mia Love gave me no love,” Mr. Trump said of former Representative Mia Love of Utah, who had just been defeated by a Democrat. “And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”

    In the 2022 midterm elections, he set out to oust all 10 House Republicans who had voted to impeach him for his conduct ahead of and during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. By the end of the election, only two of the 10 remained — and both, not incidentally, had survived in states where the top two finishers advanced to the general election, not in a closed Republican primary.

    After seeing the courtroom on Monday, Mr. Vance, who won his 2022 Senate primary after Mr. Trump endorsed him, said in a post on X that “I’m now convinced the main goal of this trial is psychological torture” for Mr. Trump.

    The former president, who can be seen carrying news clippings of comments made about the trial as he leaves, appeared to appreciate the words of support from those who stood with him. But he had another idea of how they could help him.

    “We have a lot of them that want to come,” Mr. Trump said on Monday. “I say just stay back and pass lots of laws to stop things like this.”

    Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.



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