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Monday, April 15, 2024

Candidates Pledge to Support, Pardon Trump Ahead of His Arrest

'If people at home want to see a bunch of people blindly bashing Donald Trump without an iota of vision for this country, they can just change the channel to MSNBC right now... '

(By Casey Harper, The Center Square) Nearly all of the Republican primary candidates pledged to support former President Donald Trump during the debate Wednesday, even if he is convicted of any of his myriad legal charges.

Trump is expected to be arrested in Fulton County, Georgia, Thursday over charges that he conspired to change the state’s 2020 election results. Those charges are part of the fourth indictment Trump faces, raising real concern that he could be convicted and jailed even as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president.

“NOBODY HAS EVER FOUGHT FOR ELECTION INTEGRITY LIKE PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP,” the former president wrote on social media Wednesday. “FOR DOING SO, I WILL PROUDLY BE ARRESTED TOMORROW AFTERNOON IN GEORGIA. GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!”

These are the candidates who qualified for the debate Wednesday night:

  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
  • Former Ambassador Nikki Haley
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence
  • Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy
  • South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott

When asked if they would still support Trump for president if he were convicted in one of the 91 charges he faces, all of them except Hutchinson and Christie raised their hand. Christie seemed to start to raise his hand but then change his mind. Notably, the candidates had to pledge to support the Republican nominee as a condition of participating in the debate.

Christie said he would not support Trump and ended up in a sparring match with Ramaswamy, who said the indictments were politically motivated.

Christie was booed for an extended period of time and had to stop speaking. That was one of multiple tense exchanges between Ramaswamy and Christie.

“I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT standing up here,” Christie said of Ramaswamy earlier in the debate.

Ramaswamy also called out Pence, saying he was the only candidate on stage who would pardon Trump on day one.

“If people at home want to see a bunch of people blindly bashing Donald Trump without an iota of vision for this country, they can just change the channel to MSNBC right now,” Ramaswamy said.

Ramaswamy asked Pence to commit to pardon Trump, but Pence gave a vague answer, saying he would give a pardon “fair consideration.”

“I don’t know why you assume Donald Trump will be convicted of these crimes,” Pence said. “That is the difference between you and me. I have given pardons when I was governor of the state of Indiana. It usually follows a finding of guilt and contrition by the individual that’s been convicted.”

Haley and Ramaswamy went at it during a debate over the issue of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

“You have no foreign policy experience and, you know what, it shows,” Haley said. “It shows.”

Her comments came after Ramaswamy said he wished Haley well in her future career on the boards of defense companies because of her support for defense funding.

DeSantis avoided much of the fighting and attacks, which largely went to Ramaswamy and whoever he was sparring with at the time. The cheers and boos bolstered and opposed different candidates throughout the night, depending on the issues and their answers.

The candidates came into the debate facing an uphill battle against former President Donald Trump, who leads by a significant margin.

The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll, conducted in conjunction with Noble Predictive Insights in July, found that Trump is far out ahead of his Republican competitors. The survey found that 53% of surveyed Republicans support Trump, followed by 18% supporting DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence and entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy came in third and fourth place with 7% and 6% support, respectively.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tied for fifth place at 4% support.

Trump’s legal issues risk putting him behind bars, making second place in the primary more important than ever. While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis currently holds that spot, it remains unclear how the debate may move that needle.

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