Some Republican presidential candidates start breaking with imperiled Trump

Some Republican presidential candidates start breaking with imperiled Trump
Image via Gage Skidmore.
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Some of President Donald Trump’s Republican challengers have started to break from him in their initial reactions to the four felony counts he faces in relation to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Trump’s 2016 running mate and former Vice President Mike Pence, for one, said that today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: “anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States.”

“I will have more to say about the government’s case after reviewing the indictment,” Pence continued. “The former president is entitled to the presumption of innocence but with this indictment, his candidacy means more talk about January 6th and more distractions.”

Pence also used the statement to scrutinize President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, saying, “As Americans his candidacy means less attention paid to Joe Biden’s disastrous economic policies afflicting millions across the United States and to the pattern of corruption with Hunter.”

Then-President Donald Trump and then-Vice President Mike Pence. Shutterstock

Former Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), a recent entry to the GOP presidential fray, condemned the former president’s alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Let me be crystal clear: Trump's presidential bid is driven by an attempt to stay out of prison and scam his supporters into footing his legal bills. Furthermore, his denial of the 2020 election results and actions on Jan. 6 show he's unfit for office,” Hurd wrote on Twitter.

Hurd continued, “The 2020 election wasn't stolen, rigged, or fraudulent. It was lost by Donald Trump because he was incapable of uniting the country. Now, we've got to ask ourselves if we really want a president who's willing to violate his oath to the Constitution just to cling to power?”

Hurd called on his fellow candidates to break from Trump, the hands-down frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination, saying that keeping Trump the focus of the 2024 race will give “Joe Biden another four years in the White House."

“The Trump of 2016 is a far cry from the desperate figure we see in 2024. It's about time our party, including the 2024 candidates, wake up to the fact that this guy only cares about himself, not our country's future,” Hurd wrote. “As Republicans, we need to prioritize offering solutions to difficult issues affecting all Americans and not allow ourselves to be distracted by Trump's baggage.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been a vocal Trump opponent but didn’t immediately release a statement when the indictment was first announced Tuesday. Christie’s campaign did not respond to Raw Story’s request for comment at the time of publication.

Chris Christie presidential rerun will pay residualsFormer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is one of the 2024 Republican presidential candidates to directly criticize Donald Trump. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

But just the day before, Christie called out Trump’s legal problems.

“If Trump is a billionaire, why is he tricking middle class donors into paying his legal bills? Over $56 million,” Christie posted on Twitter. “Answer: Donald Trump loves using other people’s money.”

“He should crack open his own wallet and come up with the cash,” Christie continued. “I’ve got some ideas. No. 1 — Sell Trump Tower.”

Self-funded Republican candidate, Ryan Binkley — an entrepreneur and pastor, from Texas — said in statement, "While the other indictments appear to be more political, this appears to be more serious. Our campaign is looking forward to helping America to heal and move on."

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson used Tuesday's indictment to push for his supporters to help him get to the first debate.

"Exactly one year ago, I told the Washington Post that Trump had disqualified himself from ever being President again," Hutchinson said on Twitter. "Today’s Trump indictment reinforced that. America deserves a leader who respects the rule of law."

Another Republican long-shot candidate, Steve Laffey, said in a statement, "Donald Trump now faces hundreds of years in prison after his third federal indictment in six months. The latest charges surround his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and block the transfer of power. How is he still pretending that he could become our next President?" Laffey wrote.

Laffey, a former mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, called out Fox and the GOP for making their standards "too extreme" for qualifying for the Republican debate on August 23. To qualify, candidates need at least 40,000 individual donors and be polling at at least 1 percent in two national polls and two early-voting stating polls, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"The GOP continues to prove that it’s lost control of this race," Laffey continued. "Their qualifying conditions will exclude former Vice President Mike Pence. Oh right, and there’s that absurd and offensive pledge of loyalty that’s still on the table. They can’t seriously expect anyone to sign that, given the latest charges against Donald the Terrible. Some Republican candidates continue to avoid bashing Trump.

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump immediately starts fundraising off January 6 indictment

Most notable among them is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Republican presidential candidate polling next behind Trump. DeSantis didn’t directly defend Trump, but he declared that Trump standing trial in the nation’s capitol is “unfair.”

“As President, I will end the weaponization of government, replace the FBI Director, and ensure a single standard of justice for all Americans,” DeSantis said via Twitter, now rebranded as X. “While I’ve seen reports, I have not read the indictment. I do, though, believe we need to enact reforms so that Americans have the right to remove cases from Washington, DC to their home districts.”

DeSantis continued, “Washington, DC is a 'swamp' and it is unfair to have to stand trial before a jury that is reflective of the swamp mentality. One of the reasons our country is in decline is the politicization of the rule of law. No more excuses — I will end the weaponization of the federal government.”

Then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) addresses a crowd while President Donald Trump watches at a rally in Tampa, Fla., on July 31, 2018.Photo: jctabb/Shutterstock

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy released a four-minute video defending Trump and declaring the 45th president was not responsible for Jan. 6 insurrection, calling the indictment “political persecution” and an attempt on President Joe Biden’s campaign to “potentially eliminate its political opponents from competition.”

“The corrupt federal police just won’t stop until they’ve achieved their mission: eliminate Trump. This is un-American and I commit to pardoning Trump for this indictment,” Ramaswamy posted on Twitter.

Ramaswamy continued, “Donald Trump isn’t the cause of what happened on Jan 6. The real cause was systematic and pervasive censorship of citizens in the year leading up to it. If you tell people they can’t speak, that’s when they scream. If you tell people they can’t scream, that’s when they tear things down. If we fail to admit the truth, Jan. 6 will just be a preview of far worse to come and I don’t want to see us get there.”

A super PAC supporting Miami Mayor Francis Suarez didn’t mention Trump at all when it fired off a fundraising message promising $20 gift cards in exchange for a $1 donation to Suarez’s campaign committee — a naked ploy to help Suarez clear a minimum donor threshold required to qualify for this month’s Republican presidential debate.

“We're not asking for you to cast your vote for Mayor Suarez...we're only asking for you to give him a fighting chance to make his case to Republican primary voters on the debate stage,” the super PAC wrote.

Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate and election denier Kari Lake, however, had a dramatic recommendation for all Republican presidential candidates not named Donald Trump: suspend their campaigns.

“This is the most egregious case of election interference in the history of our country. This a battle that a unified Republican party MUST fight. Otherwise, we will lose this country forever,” Lake said. “That is why I am calling on all Republican candidates for President to immediately suspend their campaigns, stop wasting hard-earned donor money and rally around our nominee, President Donald J. Trump.”

Former President Donald Trump (R) watches Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake speak at a ‘Save America’ rally in support of Arizona GOP candidates on July 22, 2022 in Prescott Valley, Arizona.(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Trump’s latest indictment for alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts of witness tampering and conspiracy against rights adds to the list of indictments Trump faces.

Another federal indictment consists of 39 felony counts related to the alleged willful retention of classified documents and conspiracy to conceal them. He also faces felony business record falsification charges in New York City stemming from a "hush money" payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump has not yet been indicted in Georgia, but officials there have been investigating the former president for more than two years and charges could come soon.

This story has been updated to include new statements from Binkley, Laffey and Hutchinson.

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