Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson (R) called on Donald Trump to drop out of the 2024 presidential race over his indictment in New York.
While most Republicans have denounced the unprecedented charges as politically motivated, Hutchinson dismissed the case as a "distraction" in an ABC interview announcing his own presidential candidacy.
Trump is expected to surrender to the authorities in Manhattan on Tuesday to face a 34-count indictment that has something to do with years-old hush money payments during the 2016 campaign.
He flew from Palm Beach, Florida to New York on Monday afternoon.
Hutchinson called it a "sad day for America," but he expressed more concern with Republican backlash to the politically charged case than the prosecution itself.
"The grand jury found probable cause, and that's the standard for any criminal charges in our society.....We don't want to erode confidence in our entire criminal justice system just because we don't like the beginning parts of a case," he said.
While he conceded he would not have filed the charges himself, Hutchinson, a former prosecutor, called the case a "sideshow" and said Trump should bow out because of it.
"For the sake of the office of the presidency, I do think that’s too much of a side show and distraction, and he needs to be able to concentrate on his due process and there is a presumption of innocence."
It's doubtful many Republican voters agree with Hutchinson's view that the politically charged indictment of an ex-president and current presidential candidate is just a "sideshow."
Indeed, Hutchinson enters the race at a time when Republican primary voters are rallying behind Trump, against what many perceive as an unprecedented, "banana republic"-style weaponization of the justice system.
Trump labeled Hutchinson a "RINO" in 2021 as he faced backlash for vetoing a bill that banned sex change surgery for minors.
But Hutchinson seems to think there is still an appetite for a "non-Trump" candidate, telling ABC that voters could trust him to be a "consistent" conservative and leader.
“I hear people talk about the leadership of our country, and I’m convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America, and not simply appeal to our worst instincts,” he said.