IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

GOP candidate Doug Burgum reluctant to talk Trump indictments: ‘It’s not the critic that counts’

Burgum did not denounce former President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in an interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press."
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, dodged repeatedly when he was asked Sunday for his position on former President Donald Trump's four indictments in an interview on "Meet the Press."

Asked by NBC News' Chuck Todd to say whether he thinks Trump tried to overturn the election results in 2020, Burgum said: "I do trust the voters. ... They want presidential elections to be about the future, a vision for the future.

"We have to offer that. If I’m just one more pundit, you know, criticizing everything that’s gone on in 2020, no one’s going to see that there’s leadership there,” he said.

Todd pressed Burgum to weigh in on the charges against his 2024 rival: "It's been interesting to me in a couple of interviews, plus the one we've just had now, you've been quite comfortable bringing up Hunter Biden on Joe Biden. But it's remarkable to me how uncomfortable you — and you're not alone here — you are bringing up the legal problems and the charges against Donald Trump. And I get it — it's fear of alienating a majority of where the party is.

"But it's sort of odd, wouldn't somebody being charged with 91 criminal counts be somebody that you'd want to see drop out of the race? I mean, should they even be running for office?" he asked.

Burgum reiterated that "voters get to decide who runs for office in America," adding that "if we're going to live in a democracy at some point, we've got to trust the voters."

Todd responded: "I hear you on that, but it is interesting that you don't want to share your opinion on this. I think some voters will be frustrated by that."

Burgum appeared to signal that he would be more willing to talk about Trump's indictments if he had more name recognition: "Well, Chuck, again, everybody's at a different place. If I had 100%, national name recognition, if I'd run for president before, if I was living in a major media market and everybody in the country knew me, that'd be a different spot."

Pressed by Todd about whether he feels he should be speaking up to denounce Trump’s efforts "to defend citizens who are essentially part of the law enforcement community," Burgum said: "That's not leadership."

“Leadership is about solving problems. Leadership is about character and integrity. Leadership is about bringing out the best of people. It’s about respect for others that have views different than you. That’s what it — that’s why we’re running," he said. “And absolutely when I’m president, we’re going to we’re going to lead with respecting everybody. We work for everybody. That’s what we’ll do.

“Again, right now, our job is to again. ... It’s not the critic that counts," Burgum added.

Later, in a separate interview on "Meet the Press," Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who endorsed Burgum, criticized his remarks.

“Doug is a friend, and I’m it’s kind of sad to me to hear that interview you did, which was a good one asking all the hard questions,” Walz said, noting that he has worked closely with Burgum as governors of neighboring states.

“But look, Doug wouldn’t answer the questions that need to be answered,” he said.

Reached for comment on Walz's remarks, Lance Trover, a spokesperson for Burgum's campaign, said: "While the Democrats and media want to talk about anything other than the future and Joe Biden’s failures, Gov. Burgum is going to continue focusing on the issues that matter to voters: the economy, energy and national security."

Trump, the front-runner in the polls for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has been indicted on criminal charges four times this year. He has denied all wrongdoing in all of the cases.

He and his top allies — including his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and a top former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark — were indicted last week on felony charges in connection with efforts to overturn the presidential election results in Georgia. Trump was charged with felony racketeering and numerous counts of conspiracy.

He was also indicted by special counsel Jack Smith's office this month on charges he conspired to defraud the country he used to lead and tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power to Biden. 

In a separate case, Smith brought charges against Trump in June over Trump’s handling of classified documents after he left office. A federal grand jury indicted Trump on seven criminal charges in connection with his handling of more than 100 classified documents that were discovered last year at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg also charged Trump this year with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to his alleged role in hush money payments toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign.