DemDaily: Indictment Divides Expanding GOP Field

April 3, 2023

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced he is running for president on Sunday, becoming the third person to take on former Presidential Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination.

Declaring his candidacy on ABC’s This Week, Hutchinson, also a former two-term Congressman and former federal prosecutor, said, "As I have traveled the country for six months, I hear people talk about the leadership of our country, and I am convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America and not simply appeal to our worst instincts."

Although Hutchinson's depth of experience exceeds most of his current or future presidential rivals, having previously headed the Border and Transportation Security Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in the early 2000's, he enters as a dark horse candidate with little or no national name recognition.

A "Christian Conservative," while in the Governor's mansion (2015-2023), Hutchinson signed into law a ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest, and legislation allowing doctors to refuse non-emergency medical treatment to LGBT people based on moral objection. He also received an A- rating with the National Rifle Association ahead of his 2018 reelection.

Hutchinson's announcement comes on the heels of last Friday's news that Trump had been indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney's office on more than two dozen counts of document fraud and violation of New York campaign finance law involving the cover-up of hush-money payments to an adult film actress. Trump, the first former US president in history be criminally charged, is scheduled to be arraigned this Tuesday.

While his brand of conservatism is not unlike some of his GOP rivals, Hutchinson's outsoken criticism of Trump sets him apart -- for now. Of Trump's indictment, Hutchinson said, “It is a dark day for America when a former President is indicted on criminal charges,” while emphasizing the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Others, forced into walking a fine line between a party and voters still beholden to Trump, and separating themselves from Trump's crimes, embraced the strategy of attacking Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the case itself.

Former UN Secretary and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who announced her presidential bid February 14, said the case is "more about revenge than it is about justice." Conservative author and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who entered the race February 21, called it a flagrant assault on the First Amendment.

Among potential presidential contenders, former Vice President Mike Pence said "the unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is outrageous," while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis described it as "the weaponization of the legal system."

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Thursday that Bragg is “undermining America’s confidence in our legal system,” and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin tweeted that Bragg indicted Trump “for pure political gain.”

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott lambasted Bragg as a "pro-criminal New York DA [who] has failed to uphold the law for violent criminals, yet weaponized the law against political enemies."

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu broke from his colleagues on the party line, offering a forthright assessment that was probably more reflective of the group's true feelings.

Asked if he thought Trump was guilty, Sununu said: “You know what the indictments are? Like, I'm assuming he is, right?...I don't think he's going to be the nominee. He shouldn't be the nominee...But this builds a lot of empathy, sympathy, if you will. It solidifies his base." The indictment, he said, "only helps" Trump with his supporters.

Trump is scheduled to be arraigned in Manhattan in State Supreme Court Tuesday at 2:15pm.

DemList will keep you informed.

DemDaily: Indicted 3/31/23
DemDaily: The Trials of Trump 3/20/23
DemDaily: CPAC Kowtows to Trump 3/6/23
DemDaily: Liars and Deniers 3/3/23
DemDaily: Red State, Blue State 2/27/23
DemDaily: The Contenders. The GOP Field Takes Shape 2/21/23

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Sources: New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, BusinessToday, CBS

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