Former President Donald Trump’s candidacy for president in 2024 is under yet another cloud of scrutiny after a jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation against writer E. Jean Carroll.
The nine-member jury found Trump did not commit rape, but jurors found him liable for sexual abuse, another form of sexual battery. He also was ordered to pay Carroll $5 million in damages.
It marks the latest legal blow to Trump, who has denied the allegations, and the seriousness of the charges has led to calls from some potential GOP challengers for Trump to step aside. But not all of his would-be competitors were willing to go that far.
Here is what other potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates have said about the Carroll case.
Haley, who is a declared candidate for the GOP nomination, dodged questions Wednesday about the jury’s findings.
“I mean, I’m not going to get into that,” the former South Carolina governor and Trump administration ambassador to the United Nations told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“That’s something for Trump to respond to,” Haley continued. “You know, I mean, I think the focus has to be not to be distracted. That’s why we’ve got to leave the baggage and the negativity behind.”
Haley added it would be fair for Trump to be asked about the issue at CNN’s scheduled town hall event with New Hampshire voters on Wednesday night.
Haley has generally been reluctant to criticize Trump by name, even after she entered the race against him. She has instead made indirect criticisms by calling for the GOP to move on to a new generation of leadership.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is weighing a 2024 bid against Trump, argued the jury’s determination that the former president was guilty in the Carroll case was not of concern to most Americans.
“It’s just one more instance where — at a time when American families are struggling, when our economy is hurting, when the world seems to become a more dangerous place almost every day — [there’s] just one more story focusing on my former running mate that I know is a great fascination to members of the national media, but I just don’t think is where the American people are focused,” Pence told NBC News in an interview.
Pence went on to say he had “never heard or witnessed behavior” akin to what Trump was accused of while the two were serving together. Pence stayed on the ticket with Trump in 2016 after an “Access Hollywood” tape was released that included Trump bragging about groping women.
More from The Hill
- Trump found liable for sexual battery, defamation in E. Jean Carroll trial
- E. Jean Carroll says she’s ‘overwhelmed with joy’ for women in US after verdict in Trump case
- Trump says he will appeal E. Jean Carroll case over ‘unconstitutional silencing’
- Judge advises jurors in Trump-Carroll case to remain anonymous ‘for a long time’
Pence has not been shy about criticizing his former boss on matters of policy. He has broken with Trump on U.S. aid for Ukraine, on abortion and on entitlement reforms. Pence has also been critical of Trump for his rhetoric around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when Pence and his family had to be taken to safety as a mob stormed the building.
But when it comes to legal matters, Pence has largely defended Trump. He previously called the charges against him in Manhattan for an alleged hush money scheme a “political prosecution.”
Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur who is in the race, largely shrugged off the decision in the Carroll case as yet another legal attack on the former president.
“I wasn’t one of the jurors, and I’m not privy to all the facts that they have, but I’ll say what everyone else is privately thinking: If the defendant weren’t named Donald Trump, would there even be a lawsuit?” Ramaswamy said in comments first reported by NBC News.
“I want to win this race by showing voters how I will take the America First movement beyond Trump,” Ramaswamy added. “I look forward to facing him on the debate stage.”
Ramaswamy similarly defended Trump’s right to remain in the race after the indictment on hush money charges, saying at the time the GOP primary field should send a clear message it would be up to voters to decide who the party’s nominee would be in 2024.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who officially announced his candidacy for 2024 in late April, is one of the few potential Trump challengers who has explicitly condemned the former president and argued the jury’s findings should weigh on voters’ minds.
“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,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “The jury verdict should be treated with seriousness and is another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump.”
In a subsequent appearance on CNN, Hutchinson said the Carroll case “should be given credence and an issue as we look forward to who’s going to be our nominee in 2024.”
“I don’t know that this is going to change things, I don’t know,” he added. “But I believe it’s an important issue for the public to weigh as to what this says about a person and what this says about who will be our next leader.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been one of the most outspoken Trump critics in the field of potential 2024 candidates, and the jury’s decision Tuesday added to the reasons Christie said the former president should not get another shot at the White House.
“His response to me was ridiculous, that he didn’t even know the woman. I mean, you know, how many coincidences are we going to have here with Donald Trump?” Christie said on Fox News host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show.
“I mean, he must be the unluckiest S.O.B. in the world. He just has random people who he has never met before, who are able to convince a jury that he sexually abused them. I mean, this guy. It is one person after another, one woman after another. The stories just continue to pile up.”
Christie has previously gone after Trump for his indictment in Manhattan, saying it reflects poorly on Trump’s character. And he has suggested Trump is “afraid” of debating his rivals after the former president suggested he may skip one or both of the first two scheduled GOP primary debates this summer.
Christie has not yet announced whether he is running for president in 2024, but he is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks. Christie ran in 2016, bowing out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.
The Florida governor is viewed as Trump’s most formidable challenger based on polling data, and he is expected to formally enter the race in the coming weeks.
But DeSantis has not yet weighed in on the jury’s findings in the Carroll case.
DeSantis has picked his spots to attack Trump in the past. When Trump was on the verge of being indicted in Manhattan for an alleged hush money scheme, the governor quipped he wasn’t familiar with paying hush money to a porn star to keep an affair quiet, a move that drew backlash from some Republicans.