The former US president, who is accused of illegally possessing classified documents, appeared in federal court on Tuesday, where he pleaded not guilty.
Critical voices have so far been rather muted within the Grand Old Party, days after the historic federal indictment of former President Donald Trump, a candidate in the 2024 presidential election. Several party members, including candidates for the party’s nomination for the next election, however, on Sunday June 18 deemed Mr. Trump indefensible and “[not] above the law”.
“I can’t defend” what he’s accused of, Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president (2017-2021) and a candidate in the 2024 Republican primary, said on NBC.
Mark Esper, who was Donald Trump’s defense secretary, judged that “if the accusations are true, that they contained information about our nation’s security (…), it could be very damaging to the nation”, on CNN. “No one is above the law,” he added, calling the revelations “troubling”.
Former Arkansas governor and Republican primary candidate Asa Hutchinson told ABC that the allegations against Donald Trump were “serious and disqualifying” and argues, “I think he should drop out.”
Delicate position of the primary candidates
Mr. Trump appeared in federal court in Miami on Tuesday, a first for a former president. He is accused of jeopardizing the security of the United States by storing confidential documents, including military plans and information on nuclear weapons, in toilets and storage rooms at his luxury Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, and refusing to return the documents despite court orders. He pleaded not guilty in federal court.
The critical remarks made about him on Sunday by Republican tenors, some of whom he is a direct rival for the party’s 2024 nomination, contrasted with those of many Republican elected officials in Congress. The latter have either defended Mr. Trump, refused to criticize him or have done so only moderately.
Most candidates for the Republican nomination find themselves in a delicate position, anxious both to show their difference with Donald Trump and to avoid alienating his fiercely loyal electoral base.
Mike Pence, for example, noted on Sunday that the former president “deserved” his court summons, while refusing to comment further “until [Donald Trump] has had a chance to take his case to court”. “I don’t know why some of my competitors in the Republican primary assume that the president will be found guilty,” he also said.
The case for which the billionaire and former real estate mogul has been implicated is just one of the multiple legal cases in which he is embroiled and which cast a shadow over his race for a second term in 2024.