Former President Donald Trump turned his arraignment on federal criminal charges into a campaign swing, leaving his Republican challengers content to let him have the spotlight. Or as in the case of Vivek Ramaswamy, pledge his loyalty to Trump.
TV viewers hoping to follow events at the federal courthouse in Miami might have been surprised when they tuned in Tuesday afternoon and saw more of Ramaswamy than the Republican being formally charged on 37 counts inside.
The entrepreneur and self-declared anti-woke warrior flew to Miami to make a statement outside the courthouse, pledging to pardon Trump “for the offenses in this federal case.”
“And I have challenged, I have demanded that every other candidate in this race either sign this commitment to pardon, or explain why they’re not.”
Traditionally, when a candidate for public office is charged with a felony, his opponents in the race use the arrest as a way to attack him, not as a reason to hold a rally on his behalf. Or condemn the prosecutors for bringing the case.
“I condemn these charges by the U.S. Department of Justice,” Ramaswamy said, adding that he believes this indictment “will permanently damage public trust in our electoral process and our justice system. “Whoever among us is elected, our job of reuniting the nation will become daunting — if not impossible.”
Ramaswamy has the benefit of consistency, having spent the entire campaign praising Trump and pledging loyalty to his political views. Other 2024 GOP candidates have been more willing to criticize — or at least raise an eyebrow — at Trump’s decision to hide classified documents in his bathroom at Mar-A-Lago.
On Monday, Trump’s former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Trump was “incredibly reckless with our national security.” And she cited her husband, who will soon be deployed to Africa as a reservist.
“This puts all of our military men and women in danger, if you’re going to talk about what our military is capable of or how we would go about invading or doing something with one of our enemies,” Haley said.
But on Tuesday, she also appeared to be ready to pardon the former president.
“When you look at a pardon, the issue is less about guilt and more about what’s good for the country,” Haley said during a radio interview. “And I think it would be terrible for the country to have a former president in prison for years because of a documents case.
“So I would be inclined in favor of a pardon,” Haley said.
If Republicans were looking for some moderation from Trump, they were sorely disappointed. In a speech from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Trump denounced the indictments as “the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country.”
“I’m not the one who thinks I’m above the law—I’m the one that followed the law. The only one,” Trump added. “It’s Joe Biden and his corrupt Department of Injustice who think they are above the law.”
Longtime Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski said he believes Trump’s message will be effective.
“He’s pointed out more inconsistencies in the application of the law than any attorney. The FBI leadership should be embarrassed — instead, they get jobs at CNN and Twitter,” Lewandowski said.
In the Delaware Valley, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) issued a statement when news of the indictment first broke, urging political leaders to “lower the temperature of the rhetoric, refrain from intentionally inflaming societal divisions, and remain committed to preserving trust in the core values of our shared American justice system.”
Other Pennsylvania Republicans, however, have been more aggressive in their defense of Donald Trump.
“The Deep State, Democrats, and Mainstream Media have relentlessly attacked President Trump for the past seven years in a disgraceful effort to stonewall his America First agenda and stop him from making America great,” tweeted Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, who represents southwestern Pennsylvania.
“This time is no different.”