Republicans challenging former President Donald Trump for the 2024 nomination were divided Tuesday after the 76-year-old was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation of the writer E. Jean Carroll.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has repeatedly criticized the 45th president since entering the GOP race last month, condemned Trump in one of the first statements after the verdict.
“Over the course of my over 25 years of experience in the courtroom, I have seen firsthand how a cavalier and arrogant contempt for the rule of law can backfire,” Hutchinson said. “The jury verdict should be treated with seriousness and is another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump.”
Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ shadow campaign, declined to comment on the verdict, but former Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama — a one-time Trump ally who broke with the former president last year — showed no such restraint.
“GUILTY!” said Brooks on Twitter. “$5 million sexual assault & defamation jury verdict. GOP CANNOT afford REPEAT sexual predator offender as 2024 president nominee. Offends voters badly.”
“America needs [the] strongest GOP candidate. Trump ain’t it. Character matters,” added Brooks, who has not yet made an endorsement in the 2024 Republican race, but told AL.com last year the future of the party lay in “Ron DeSantis or somebody like him.”
Some Republican candidates came to Trump’s defense, with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy suggesting the Carroll case was politically motivated.
“I’ll say what everyone else is privately thinking: if the defendant weren’t named Donald Trump, would we be talking about this today, would there even be a lawsuit?” he said in a statement.
“I wasn’t one of the jurors and I’m not privy to all of the facts that they have. But based on the sheer timing of the allegations, that the alleged assault occurred in the mid-1990s and Ms. Carroll did not sue until 2019 and later in 2022, far beyond the statute of limitations, and in the middle of a spate of legal charges for other ancient allegations, it seems this is part of the establishment system’s anaphylactic immune response against its chief political virus, Donald Trump,” Ramaswamy went on.
“This is just one more antibody. Believe me, it would be a lot easier if Trump weren’t in this race. But, in this country we don’t weaponize the law or decades old allegations to undercut political opponents. I want to win this race because voters believe I can take the America First movement to the next level.”
Talk show host Larry Elder, a former Republican candidate for California governor, responded to the verdict by tweeting the names of women who have accused President Biden and former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.
The campaign of former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the exploratory committee set up by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).
Trump was ordered by a judge to pay more than $5 million in damages to Carroll, who accused the former president of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman fitting room in the 1990s.
The 79-year-old writer beat back allegations from Trump that she had lied about the incident.
In a lengthy statement after the verdict, the Trump campaign ripped the judge’s decision as “a new low,” denying any relationship between the former president and Carroll and pointing to heavy Democratic funding behind her legal effort.
“The Democratic Party’s never-ending witch-hunt of President Trump hit a new low today. In jurisdictions wholly controlled by the Democratic Party our nation’s justice system is now compromised by extremist left-wing politics. We have allowed false and totally made-up claims from troubled individuals to interfere with our elections, doing great damage.
“Make no mistake, this entire bogus case is a political endeavor targeting President Trump because he is now an overwhelming front-runner to be once again elected President of the United States.
“The continued abuse of our great Constitution for political ends is disgusting and cannot be tolerated. Our nation is in serious trouble when claims lacking any evidence or proof or eyewitnesses can invade our courts to score political points.
“Sadly, for the enemies of American freedom and democracy, President Trump will never stop fighting for the American people, no matter what the radical Democrats dream up next. This case will be appealed, and we will ultimately win.”
Trump said in an earlier post on his social media platform Truth Social that he would appeal “no matter what the outcome!”
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