The Republican Party’s 2024 presidential aspirants are grappling over whether Donald Trump deserves a pardon should he be .
So far, most of them appear open to it.
Perhaps the most vocal proponent of a Trump pardon, multimillionaire , put his peers on the spot outside the Miami federal courthouse where Trump was arraigned and pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon.
“We need to declare independence from our donor class in the Republican Party,” Ramaswamy proclaimed. “If you’re not going to pardon Donald Trump in January 2025, you deserve to say why, and we will hold you accountable.”
Trump, 76, is staring down a 37-count indictment largely revolving around allegedly illegal retention of sensitive intelligence documents. He was the first former president to be formally slapped with federal criminal charges Tuesday and has flatly denied wrongdoing across the board.
Some rivals such as his onetime ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, have admonished his behavior. Still, despite his alleged document hoarding as “reckless,” Haley teased she would be “inclined” to pardon him.
“When you look at a pardon, the issue is less about guilt and more about what’s good for the country,” Haley told the conservative Clay Travis and Buck Sexton radio show Tuesday. “And I think it would be terrible for the country to have a former president in prison for years because of a documents case.
“So I would be inclined in favor of a pardon.”
Other candidates have demurred on the issue.
“I don’t want to speak about hypotheticals,” former Vice President Mike Pence told CNN last during an Iowa town hall when asked about pardoning Trump. “I’m not sure I’m going to be elected president of the United States. I believe we have a fighting chance. I really believe we do.”
At that time, Trump had not yet been charged by special counsel Jack Smith’s team over the Mar-a-Lago classified document debacle.
Trump’s chief GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, previously left a pardon on the table but was noncommittal.
“We will be aggressive [in] issuing pardons,” he told the Clay and Buck show last month.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, perhaps Trump’s most vociferous Republican critic in the primary, has publicly excoriated his conduct surrounding the documents.
“I will tell you as a prosecutor, if I believe someone has gotten a full and fair trial in front of a jury of their peers and especially someone in public life who committed those crimes when they held the public trust, I can’t imagine pardoning them,” Christie said at the time.
Thus far, the most forceful Republican to come out against pardoning Trump is former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
“It is simply wrong for a candidate to use the pardon power of the United States of the president in order to curry votes and in order to get an applause line,” Hutchinson told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday
“That really undermines the rule of law in our country that I have served my lifetime supporting, and it is offensive to me that anyone would be holding out a pardon under these circumstances.”
In spite of the specter of a conviction, Republican voters appear to be coalescing around Trump. The former president leads DeSantis 57.2% to 22.0%, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.