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The GOP candidates were asked if they would support Trump as the presidential nominee if he was convicted. Here's how they responded.

Takeaways from 1st GOP presidential debate
Republican presidential debate analysis: CBS News' John Dickerson on takeaways 05:02

Former President Donald Trump, who has been indicted four different times this year, did not participate in Wednesday's GOP debate — but he was a topic of discussion among the eight other candidates who took the stage. "You all signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee," said moderator Brett Baier. "If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him as your party's choice? Please raise your hand if you would." Here's how they answered.

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence raised their hands, saying they would support Trump as the party's nominee – even if he was convicted. 

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison did not raise his hand and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a hand motion and later clarified he was not raising his hand in support of Trump.

"Someone's got to stop normalizing this conduct," said Christie. "Whether or not you believe that the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of President of the United States." Christie was met with both cheers and boos, to which he responded: "That's the great thing about this country, booing is allowed — but it doesn't change the truth."

GOP candidates raise their hands to indicate they would support former President Donald Trump as the Republican nominee if he was convicted of a crime on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.
GOP candidates raise their hands to indicate they would support former President Donald Trump as the Republican nominee if he was convicted of a crime on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Hutchinson later said he will not "support someone convicted of a serious felony," and that Trump could be disqualified to run under the 14th Amendment.

The amendment states that a member of political office or the military — after having taken an oath to support the Constitution — "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof" is barred from office, unless the House and Senate votes otherwise.

While the 14th Amendment has yet to be invoked — and Trump has yet to be convicted of any crimes — the idea of using the amendment has been discussed by political and legal experts after the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

Candidates were also asked if Pence, who resisted Trump's alleged scheme to delay the transfer of power to President Biden, did the right thing on Jan. 6. 

Trump made repeated demands that Pence reject the Electoral College results, which is not an authority the vice president has. Pence resisted these demands, and he became a central witness in the investigation into Trump's alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, for which Trump faces four felony charges.

Pence said the American people deserve to know if the other candidates agreed that he kept his oath to the Constitution that day. DeSantis said Pence did his duty. "I've got no beef with him," he said.

Scott said Pence "absolutely" did the right thing. Christie said Pence "stood for the Constitution and he deserves our thanks as Americans."

If Trump is convicted of any of the crimes he is charged with, Ramaswamy said as president, he would pardon Trump — and he urged Pence to say the same. "I don't know why you assume Donald Trump will be convicted of these crimes," Pence said. "That is the difference between you and me. I have given pardons when I was governor of the state of Indiana. It usually follows a finding of guilt and contrition by the individual that's been convicted." He added that he would give "fair consideration" to pardon requests. 

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