While many Republicans in the presidential field remain hestitant to criticise Donald Trump over his various indictments, one candidate has gone so far as to say he should drop out of the Republican nominating contest.
“Donald Trump’s actions – from his willful [sic] disregard for the Constitution to his disrespect for the rule of law – should not define our nation or the Republican Party,” former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.
“This is a sad day for our country. While Donald Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal proceedings will be a major distraction. This reaffirms the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and end his campaign.”
Mr Hutchinson, who is trailing far behind the likes of Mr Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis in early polls of the Republican race, has long voiced his opposition to Mr Trump’s style and disregard for democracy.
Now, with Mr Trump becoming the first ever former US president to be federally indicted, Mr Hutchinson has taken his feelings a step further.
In different times, the idea that a candidate could survive a federal indictment for mishandling classified documents and obstructing justice would be difficult to believe.
But these times, and this candidate, may be different.
Mr Trump has already been indicted once this year, in New York, for his alleged role in facilitating a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, and has remained the favoured to win the Republican nomination regardless.
While Mr Hutchinson called on Mr Trump to leave the race, others of Mr Trump’s primary opponents took a different tack. The entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, for instance, said in a statement that he would pardon Mr Trump if elected president.
“It would be much easier for me to win this election if Trump weren’t in the race, but I stand for principles over politics,” Mr Ramaswamy said. “I commit to pardon Trump promptly on January 20, 2025 and to restore the rule of law in our country.”
Mr DeSantis, meanwhile, vowed to “bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias, and end weaponisation once and for all”.
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina sounded a similar note, arguing on Fox News that “what we’ve seen over the last several years is the weaponization of the department of justice against the former president”.
Mr Trump’s comments in the aftermath of his indictment were, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most strident of all.
“We’re leading against Biden by a lot, a tremendous amount,” Mr Trump said in a video posted to Truth Social.
“And we went up to a level where they figured the way they’re going to stop us is by using what’s called warfare. And that’s what it is. This is warfare for the law. And we can’t let it happen. We can’t let it happen. Our country is going to hell, and they come after Donald Trump.”
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