Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson criticized fellow GOP candidates defending former President Donald Trump and attacking the prosecution in the wake of Trump's federal indictment.
Hutchinson, a former Arkanas governor who has called for Trump to end his campaign, told Andrea Mitchell in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday that its “simply wrong to be discussing a pardon" for Trump as he faces charges over allegedly mishandling national defense information.
GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley said that if she were elected president, she would be “inclined in favor of a pardon” for Trump if he were convicted. Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, also said that the charges, if true, demonstrated that Trump was “incredibly reckless with our national security.”
The initial reaction by many of Trump's fellow Republicans, including rivals in the 2024 race, has been to criticize the Department of Justice, claiming without evidence that the prosecution amounted to a “weaponization” of the government by Democrats to go after a political rival. Some Republican allies of Trump, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, have also defended keeping classified material in a Mar-a-Lago Club bathroom, as the government alleges Trump did.
“President Trump has a powerful voice. He’s using that, and people are following that,” Hutchinson said. “So, we need to have other leaders that step up and make it clear that these are very serious allegations that the Republican Party doesn’t tolerate misuse of classified information. We take these allegations seriously.
"Obviously, he’s entitled to a presumption of innocence, but don’t undermine — undermine the criminal justice system and the importance of what’s happening here and the equal application of the law," Hutchinson continued.
More Republicans have critiqued Trump since the indictment was unsealed, detailing the evidence behind Special Counsel Jack Smith’s decision to charge the former president. Former Vice President Mike Pence says that “he can’t defend what’s alleged” against Trump, while Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., called it a “serious case” and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he “would have been court martialed” for taking classified documents home when he was a naval officer.
Hutchinson is averaging about 1% in national polls of the Republican primary field, and he faces an uphill battle to make the Republican National Committee's first debate in August.
“Every candidate is going to have to speak out on this,” Hutchinson said. If he can get on the debate stage, he’s going to be “talking about the importance of our national security.”
Qualifying for the debate requires candidates to meet criteria including clearing a polling threshold, having a minimum of 40,000 unique donors, and signing a pledge agreeing to support the eventual GOP nominee.