Trump’s indictment divides 2024 Republican hopefuls

Jun 11, 2023, 3:24 PM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a political roundtable, Friday, May 19, 2023, in Bedford, N.H. ...

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a political roundtable, Friday, May 19, 2023, in Bedford, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(CNN) —Republican presidential candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and Asa Hutchinson Sunday articulated vastly different plans for how they’d approach the federal indictment against former President Donald Trump should either capture the White House in 2024.

Contenders for the GOP nomination are grappling to strike the right tone on Trump, seen as the GOP front-runner to take on President Joe Biden next year, as they look to build their support among Republican primary voters.

Trump is facing his first federal indictment for retention of classified documents and conspiracy with a top aide to hide them from the government and his own attorneys – a total of 37 counts.

Ramaswamy, who vowed to pardon Trump if elected president before details of the 37-count indictment were revealed, doubled down Sunday, telling CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that after “reading that indictment and looking at the selective omissions of both fact and law,” he was “even more convinced that a pardon is the right answer here.”

Trump raised $34M so far in 2023, including indictment bump

Ramaswamy acknowledged that he “would not have taken those documents with me,” but the tech entrepreneur maintained there was a difference between “bad judgment and breaking the law.”

Those comments stood in contrast to Hutchinson, who called Ramaswamy’s vow to pardon Trump “simply wrong” in a separate interview on “State of the Union” later Sunday.

“It is simply wrong for a candidate to use the pardon power of the United States of the president in order to curry votes, and in order to get an applause line. It is just wrong,” the former Arkansas governor told Bash.

“We do not need to have our commander in chief of this country not protecting our nation’s secrets,” Hutchinson said, adding later, “These are things that should not be disclosed as entertainment value to a political contact that you’re speaking with.”

Asked if he believes the indictment will help Trump in the 2024 race, Hutchinson said, “I suspect that he’s going to raise money on the indictment as he did before. And obviously with a lot of Republican leaders saying that this is selective prosecution, that this is unfair – there is a sympathy factor that is built in.”

But, Hutchinson said, “The Republican Party stands for the rule of law and our system of justice. Let’s not undermine that by our rhetoric, by making up facts, and by accusing the Department of Justice of things that there is no evidence of.”


Other 2024 hopefuls walk fine line


Ramaswamy isn’t the only 2024 GOP contender to criticize the Justice Department in the days since Trump first disclosed the indictment.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday accused the DOJ of “weaponization of federal law enforcement” while vowing, if elected president, to “bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias and end weaponization once and for all.”

DeSantis declined to comment on the indictment Saturday at a campaign stop in Oklahoma, but he repeated his vow to end the “weaponization” of government and clean house from top to bottom” as president.

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to “stop hiding behind the special counsel and stand before the American people” to explain “this unprecedented action.”

“We also need to hear the former president’s defense so that each of us can make our own judgment,” Pence told attendees at the North Carolina GOP convention in Greensboro, where Trump also spoke hours after addressing a similar gathering in Georgia.

Donald Trump described Pentagon plan of attack and shared classified map, indictment says

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump’s United Nations ambassador, characterized the indictment as “prosecutorial overreach” in a statement Friday, adding that it was time to move “beyond the endless drama and distractions.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who entered the GOP race last week, vowed Sunday in an interview on CBS News to “follow every rule related to handling classified documents” after potentially leaving office as president. He told Fox News on Saturday that Trump’s mishandling of documents was not something that voters want to spend their time talking about.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a onetime ally and close adviser to Trump who has emerged as his chief critic in the 2024 race, however, described the details of the indictment as “damning.”

“This is irresponsible conduct,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday, adding that “the conduct that Donald Trump engaged in was completely self-inflicted.”

Christie is scheduled to participate in a CNN town hall hosted by Anderson Cooper in New York on Monday.


Congressional ally stands firm


Trump has maintained the reliable backing of hard-line conservatives in Congress, such as House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, who fiercely defended the former president in an interview with Bash on Sunday.

“The president’s ability to classify and control access to national security information flows from the Constitution,” the Ohio Republican said. “He alone decides. He said he declassified this material. He can put it wherever he wants. He can handle it however he wants.”

But the laws under which the Justice Department said it was investigating possible crimes – statutes about the willful retention of national defense information, obstruction of a federal investigation, and the concealment or removal of government records – do not require documents to be classified for a crime to have been committed, CNN previously reported.

Trump bemoans ‘political hit job’ in first public remarks since federal indictment

Bash also reminded Jordan that Trump, on tape, in a 2021 meeting admitted to having a document that wasn’t declassified, a detail first reported by CNN. But Jordan repeatedly countered, claiming that saying Trump “could have” declassified material as president was not the same as saying he “didn’t” already declassify the material.

“He has said time and time again, he’s declassified all this material,” the congressman said.

Asked if he had evidence of Trump declassifying any documents, Jordan said, “I go on the president’s word, and he said he did.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Politics & Elections

The Supreme Court decided Friday to uphold a federal gun control law that is meant to protect victi...

Brian Carlson

Supreme Court upholds gun law intended to protect domestic violence victims

The Supreme Court decided Friday to uphold a federal gun control law that is meant to protect victims of domestic violence. The law prevents people with a domestic violence restraining order from having a gun.

1 day ago

Recount observers watch ballots during a Milwaukee hand recount of Presidential votes at the Wiscon...

Ken Ritter, Associated Press

Fake elector case in Nevada dismissed over venue question, state attorney general vows appeal

A Nevada judge has dismissed a criminal indictment against six Republicans accused of submitting certificates to Congress falsely declaring Donald Trump the winner of the state’s 2020 presidential election.

1 day ago

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, talking about the proposed changes that are happening to downt...

Carole Mikita and Michael Houck, KSL TV

‘This plan is ambitious’: Salt Lake County Mayor Wilson talks about the revitalization of Salt Lake City

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson spoke to KSL TV about all the proposed changes that could hit downtown Salt Lake City.

2 days ago

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apologized to members of his family who objected to a new TV ad released Sund...

Meg Kinnard, Associated Press

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. fails to qualify for CNN’s debate

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has failed to qualify for next week’s debate in Atlanta. Host network CNN said Thursday the independent presidential candidate fell short of benchmarks both for state ballot qualification and polling

2 days ago

Protestors gather outside the House chambers during a legislative special session at the Utah State...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

Utah lawmakers vote to block federal protections for LGBTQ+ students under Title IX

Utah lawmakers convened in a special session on Juneteenth to declare the state's intent not to follow a federal rule providing anti-discrimination protections to transgender youth.

3 days ago

Tuesday February 9, 2006. Photo by Scott G. Winterton / Deseret Morning News.The Ten Commandments m...

Sara Cline, Associated Press

New Louisiana law requires that The Ten Commandments must be displayed classrooms

Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Trump’s indictment divides 2024 Republican hopefuls