GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – Republican presidential candidate and former two-term Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the verdict by a federal jury that former President Trump was liable for sexual abuse is a “distraction that really hurts the Republican cause.”
In an interview with Fox News Digital at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Hutchinson called the actions by Trump – who is currently the overwhelming front-runner in the 2024 GOP presidential nomination race – “unbecoming of somebody who wants to be president.”
Hutchinson spoke on Wednesday morning — hours after the jury in New York City found Trump liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll in an upscale Manhattan department store nearly three decades ago, but not liable for the rape Carroll accused Trump of committing.
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The jury concluded within a couple of hours that Trump was also liable for defamation based on the former president’s denial of Carroll’s allegations in a social media post from October 2022, when he called her claims a “hoax” and a “con job.” The jury awarded Carroll nearly $5 million in damages for her battery and defamation claims.
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Trump, taking to social media after the verdict, charged that “THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE — A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!”
The former president, in an interview with Fox News Digital just after the verdict, reiterated that he had “absolutely no idea” who Carroll was and added that he’ll appeal the ruling in the civil case.
Hutchinson, who is a vocal Republican critic of the former president, appeared to be the only actual or potential GOP presidential contender to criticize Trump immediately following the jury’s blockbuster verdict.
“I think it’s important for leaders to speak out on an important issue that impact women, that impact our justice system, and impact somebody who wants to be President of the United States,” he told Fox News. “I think it’s important to speak the truth in those kinds of occasions and not to run from a flaw and conduct that is unbecoming of somebody who wants to be president. I said it. I don’t think we should undermine what the jury determined. That’s undermining the rule of law that’s important in our society.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to launch a 2024 campaign in the coming weeks, predicted that Republican primary voters would pay little attention to the latest in a long line of Trump’s legal predicaments, which the former vice president described as a distraction from people’s daily lives.
“I just don’t think is where the American people are focused,” he said Tuesday evening in comments reported by NBC News.
When asked about Pence’s remarks, Hutchinson said “he could be right but I hope he’s wrong and I hope that the voters care about this. I think it’s important to respect women. I think it’s important for our party leadership to understand that women play an important role and that they should not be diminished in conduct. And that’s what basically the jury determined after a lengthy trial.”
Looking ahead, Hutchinson added, “we’ll see if they [voters] care or not. But I think those are important facts as you look at who’s going to lead the free world in the future.”
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However, he emphasized, “I hope that we can talk about other things other than Trump and his latest chaos. That’s really a distraction that really hurts the Republican cause.”
“Whenever you look at the challenge that we face with President Biden, we need to talk about his failed border policies, he’s failed energy policy that he has in America. That fact that he can’t reduce federal spending….these are the important issue that impact people’s lives, the cost of food on the table, the cost of their credit card bill that they have every month,” he stressed. “This is what we ought to be talking about and I hope that we can shift to that.”
Hutchinson spoke with Fox News during a busy two-day swing through New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar. The former governor was also meeting with trade groups and huddling with top Republican leaders and activists in the state.
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Hutchinson faces a steep uphill climb against Trump and an emerging field that also includes other well-known candidates with much bigger campaign war chests. Additionally, he stands at 1% or less support in the most recent GOP presidential nomination public opinion surveys, including the latest poll from Fox News.
When asked about his game plan to increase support, Hutchinson said he will concentrate on campaigning in New Hampshire and Iowa, whose caucuses lead off the Republican presidential nominating calendar.
“Iowa and New Hampshire are important parts of it. They’re more important, in terms of polling, than across the nation, at the initial phases,” he said.
“I want people to understand my story that I grew up on a farm, the fact that I worked in factories, the fact that I have a very common background. I had a student loan that was repaid. I want them to understand my commitment to the law that I have been a prosecutor. I bring more experience to this race in terms of law enforcement than anyone else. I have the greatest breadth of experience from federal to state issues that anyone else in the race. It’s an experience that fits with the challenges that we face,” he added.
“I want to tell that story. I think that makes a difference. I think that it will grow in support, and I’m excited about being in the early states and making my case,” he highlighted.
Hutchinson has also been meeting with donors, whose money he will need to finance his presidential bid.
“You’ve got some who want to stay on the sidelines and say ‘we’re not supportive of Trump but we want to see who surfaces’ and then you’ve got others who love the message, love what I’m doing and they sign up very quickly,” he told Fox News. “So it’s varied. Some want to wait and I think it’s important to make the case it’s not a good time to wait. You need to jump in there. You need to have some horses in the race if we’re going to get to the poll position and win. So we’re raising money and we want to continue that.”
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