Several Republican senators warned Tuesday that the verdict against Donald Trump in the E. Jean Carroll case could pose significant challenges for the former president in his 2024 bid.
“The fact is, I do not think he could win the presidency,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters on Capitol Hill. "Regardless of what you think about him as an individual, to me, electability is ... the sole criterion."
Asked whether he could support someone who has been found liable for sexual abuse as a candidate for president, Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota told reporters, “I would have a difficult time doing so.”
“You never liked to hear that a former president has been found — in a civil court — guilty of those types of actions,” Rounds said. “It focuses a lot of us on what we’ve been saying for some time now, which is we are looking for an individual to lead this party forward in a united method and we’re looking forward to those individuals coming forward.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said the verdict is clearly concerning.
“He’s been found to be civilly liable. How could it do anything else but create concern?” Cassidy said.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota suggested that the verdict would most likely be part of “an ongoing drumbeat” throughout Trump’s candidacy.
He said that while many voters appear to have adopted the view that prosecutors “are out to get” Trump, “people are gonna have to decide whether ... they want to deal with all the drama that’s going to surround him.”
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a frequent Trump critic, said a jury of Trump's "peers found him guilty of sexual assault and awarded $5 million to the person who was damaged."
"I hope the jury of the American people reached the same conclusion about Donald Trump," he said.
A New York jury found Trump liable of sexual abusing Carroll in a Manhattan department store nearly three decades ago. The jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages for her battery and defamation claims but said Trump wasn't liable for Carroll's alleged rape.
Trump, who has consistently denied Carroll’s claims, responded to the verdict on his social media website, calling the verdict “A DISGRACE” and suggesting that he had been subjected to a “VERY UNFAIR TRIAL!”
Some Senate Republicans sidestepped questions about the case.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee told an NBC News reporter, "I don't do walk-and-talks."
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump ally, focused his criticism on "the New York legal system," saying it was "off the rails when it comes to Donald Trump."
In his remarks on Capitol Hill, Cornyn suggested that “the public tolerates more misbehavior from public officials these days than it did in the past” and that it was “significantly” tolerant of Trump, who was indicted last month by a Manhattan grand jury in a hush money case.
But, Cornyn said, Trump appears to be narrowly focused on his main supporters without appealing to a “broader spectrum of people.”
“He’s got a solid, supportive base, but you can’t win a general election with just your base,” Cornyn said. “So to me, that’s the reason why I don’t think he can get elected.”
Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, meanwhile, argued that the verdict won’t “make a difference to Trump supporters or Trump’s opponents.”