Donald Trump's 2024 Rivals Say He Should Get A Pass For January 6 Attack

The top 2024 Republican presidential candidates are loath to criticise Donald Trump over anything, even an attempted overthrow of democracy.

The new litmus test in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol and former US President Donald Trump’s unprecedented efforts to overturn an election he lost.

With federal prosecutors possibly bringing charges against Trump in connection to the insurrection any day now, many of the top candidates seeking to stop him from becoming their party’s presidential nominee have argued that he should get a pass for inciting hundreds of his supporters to storm and trash one of the most recognised symbols of democratic government in the world.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s leading rival, said last week that the former president should have responded more “forcefully” when the supporters he told to march on the Capitol broke inside the building. But he said that didn’t rise to the level of a criminal indictment.

“I hope he doesn’t get charged. I don’t think it’ll be good for the country,” DeSantis said of Trump, who ignored pleas from his advisers and even his own daughter to tell his supporters to leave the Capitol.

Former US Vice President Mike Pence, who has blamed Trump for putting his and his family’s life in danger during the attack, echoed the sentiment.

“While his words were reckless, based on what I know, I am not yet convinced that they were criminal,” Pence said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

The former vice president was repeatedly criticised by Trump for refusing to try to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. Trump’s supporters built a make-shift gallows outside the Capitol during the riot and chanted Hang Mike Pence.

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a former US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, meanwhile, said Monday on CNBC she would support Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee in 2024. Haley has called Trump’s legal woes a “distraction,” arguing that it would hurt his chances in a general election campaign, but she, too, has sided with Trump and other Republicans against the Department of Justice bringing charges.

Senator Tim Scott, the other South Carolinian in the race, who was also present in the Capitol during the January 6 attack, said last week that he would “only hold responsible the very people who threatened my life, and the former president did not threaten my life.”

But Trump did have a role in the attack. Nearly 200 of the people who broke into the Capitol on January 6 have directly claimed they were responding to calls by Trump to help keep him in the White House, according to one analysis by a government watchdog group.

If Trump is charged by the Department of Justice, it would be the third time this year he has been indicted. The former president is also facing charges related to a hush-money case in New York and his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Prosecutors in Georgia ― where Trump pressed local officials to overturn election results ― are eyeing their own charges against him, and he is facing another trial over defamation against writer E Jean Carroll next year.

But none of those developments have shaken Trump’s hold on the Republican primary electorate. In fact, they seem to have boosted his standing. The former president continues to hold large leads in polls of the 2024 race, a dynamic that is reflected in his rivals’ reluctance to criticise him even over an attempted overthrow of democracy.

The only candidates in the race who have sharply criticised Trump over January 6, 2021, and called his conduct disqualifying are former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. But both men are polling in low single digits near the bottom of the field.

“While Donald Trump would like the American people to believe that he is the victim in this situation, the truth is that the real victims of January 6 were our democracy, our rule of law, and those Capitol Police officers who worked valiantly to protect our Capitol,” Hutchinson said earlier this month.

Christie has repeatedly ripped Trump as well as other candidates like DeSantis and Scott for refusing to call out the former president.

“When you say the president’s not responsible for January 6, I can’t not say something about that, it’s ridiculous, and Tim’s better than that,” Christie said of Scott on Monday in New Hampshire.

“It is disgraceful what [Trump] did that day. And it is disappointing that Tim Scott said what he said,” he added.


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