Question of possible Trump pardon roils GOP primary field

 June 18, 2023

Recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans believe former President Donald Trump should be pardoned if ultimately convicted on federal charges, but whether that would actually occur now appears highly dependent on who wins the White House in 2024, with not all candidates having yet pledged to facilitate clemency, as Fox News notes.

To date, GOP hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy has taken the boldest stand on the issue, vowing to pardon Trump if he is elected president and issuing a challenge to the rest of the field to make the same promise.

Ramaswamy takes stand

Speaking last week at a press conference in Florida, Ramaswamy threw down the gauntlet in terms of the need for Republican presidential candidates to go on the record about a potential pardon for Trump.

“The use of police force by a sitting U.S. president against his chief political rival in the midst of a presidential election sets a dangerous precedent in our country,” he said, referencing the former commander in chief's federal indictment.

Ramaswamy continued, “No one is above the law: the U.S. president shouldn't be able to use the federal police to arrest his opponents. No one should be below the law either, yet there are now two standards of justice depending on your political viewpoints. That's the single greatest threat to our constitutional republic today.”

The candidate also took the opportunity to guarantee Trump's pardon if he reaches the White House and to challenge all of his party rivals to do the same.

Pence: Pardon talk “premature”

As NBC News reported, former Vice President Mike Pence, also running for the GOP nomination, weighed in on the matter last week, suggesting that it was a bit too early to even be discussion the idea of a pardon for Trump.

Speaking in an interview with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press that was set to air Sunday, Pence said, “I don't know why some of my competitors in the Republican primary presume the president will be found guilty.”

Pence went on, “All we know is...what the president has been accused of in the indictment. We don't know what his defense is. We don't know if this will even go to trial. It could be subject to a motion to dismiss. We don't know what the verdict will be of the jury.”

When pressed about the fact that Ramaswamy and fellow Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley have already signaled their willingness to pardon Trump, Pence opined, “Well, I just think the question is, is premature.”

“Smartest strategy”

Though he is by no means one of Trump's fans, Democratic political power player James Carville suggested on Thursday that Ramaswamy's decision to get out in front of the issue and promise the former president a pardon represents the “smartest strategy” and that other Republican candidates would be wise to follow suit, as Fox News noted.

Carville pointed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican candidates who have not committed to a pardon as people who “are coming circling buzzards,” adding, “[t]hey're waiting to pounce on [Trump's] carcass,” and that is unlikely to play well with the former president's ultra-loyal base.

Noted Trump foes – and current GOP candidates – Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie should consider, in Carville's estimation, taking a page from Ramaswamy's book, with the strategist stating, “[e]ven if Trump gets knocked out for legal reasons or something like that, still these Republican voters are going to remember who stood by him and who didn't.”

Of course, the entire conversation may ultimately be rendered moot, considering that a prerequisite for a pardon is an actual conviction, and that is far from a foregone conclusion, given the tenacity with which Trump seems all but certain to fight the charges against him.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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