Many Republicans attacked the justice system after a jury convicted Donald Trump in his hush-money trial. But Van Orden’s comments, one expert said, were “unhinged.”


U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden is not hesitant to use strong or insulting language on social media.

But even for him, his response to the 34 felony convictions of former President Donald Trump on Thursday was noteworthy.

In a string of nonsensical posts on X (formerly Twitter), the Republican and former Navy SEAL from western Wisconsin compared the judge presiding over Trump’s hush-money fraud trial to an obscure Nazi judge, called him “Communist Scum,” posted a U.S. flag adorned with the Soviet hammer and sickle, and equated President Joe Biden to murderous dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler.

He also used the words “coward” and “jackass” to describe prominent Republicans who urged conservative voters to move on from Trump.

Many Republicans attacked the criminal justice system after Trump was convicted on May 30 of falsifying business records to obscure a sexual liaison with a porn star, but Van Orden’s reactions “seem all the more unhinged,” considering Trump is unlikely to face jail time for the convictions, said Joseph Heim, a UW-La Crosse political science professor emeritus.

Many experts think the former president — the first in history to be convicted of a felony — will instead receive probation. Trump, 77,  has no previous criminal record.

Van Orden’s campaign did not respond to a message seeking comment.

A first-term congressman likely to face a tough reelection in his swing district, albeit one Trump won twice, Van Orden has been a fierce defender of the former president.

He attended Trump’s rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, that led to the assault on the U.S. Capitol, but said he departed when the protest became a mob.

In defending Trump in the days after the conviction, Van Orden repeatedly insulted Judge Juan Merchan on X. Merchan has overseen several related cases, including the Trump Organization’s tax fraud trial, after which he sentenced the organization’s CFO Allen Weisselberg to prison for his role in the scheme. Merchan also is presiding over the criminal fraud case against prominent Trump ally Steve Bannon. That trial is set to start in September.

Van Orden never mentioned in his social media comments the 12-person jury, agreed to by Trump's lawyers, that found the former president guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged plan to cover up a hush money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

Just one of many social media insults U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden, Republican of western Wisconsin, posted about Judge Juan Merchan after he presided over a jury trial which found former President Donald Trump guilty on all 34 counts.

“Van Orden doesn't know much about judges,” said Ed Miller, a UW-Stevens Point political science professor emeritus.

Miller noted that Merchan affirmed many of the defense attorneys’ requests to the court and that Trump’s lawyers agreed to the judge’s instructions to the jury before their deliberations, all of which aligned with New York law and procedures.

“Van Orden is following Republicans and he is also doing this to obtain Republican campaign funds,” Miller said of the congressman’s social media posts. “If he didn't, he would be cut off.”

But Heim indicated that following the GOP’s prevailing sentiment about the jury verdict might be problematic for Van Orden in the general election.

“Running in a western Wisconsin swing district would suggest a more controlled response would be better for re-election purposes,” Heim said.

National Democratic organizations, viewing the district as deeply Republican in 2022, stayed away from substantial support for campaigns against Van Orden, then were surprised when Democrat and state Sen. Brad Pfaff nearly beat him that year.

After that strong showing, national Democratic groups this year are more inclined to spend huge sums to dislodge Van Orden in November.

In short, he will likely need a lot of cash to win.

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.


This article first appeared on The Badger Project and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

This story was funded in part by a grant from the Jon and Martha Hove Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Dunn County.

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