As former president Donald J. Trump was pleading not guilty to all 37 federal charges related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents Tuesday in Miami, some of his Republican rivals were asked about whether they would pardon Trump if he were convicted.
Hours before Trump's arraignment, biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy said he'd pardon the former president as soon as he's sworn in.
"This is my commitment, on Jan. 20th 2025 if I'm elected the next U.S. president — to pardon Donald J. Trump for these offenses in this federal case," Ramaswamy said.
Ramaswamy even went to the Miami federal courthouse where Trump was arraigned and held a press conference, during which he challenged his Republican opponents to sign an agreement committing to do the same if any of them win.
Nikki Haley, who served as ambassador to the U.N. in the Trump administration, said she would be "inclined" to pardon her former boss, although she added that "it's really premature at this point, when he's not even been convicted of anything."
During a radio interview with Clay Travis, Haley, who is also the former governor of South Carolina, said that "if the claims in the indictment are true, Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security, and that's not okay."
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said of Trump on "The Brian Kilmeade Show" Wednesday, "I can't imagine if he gets a fair trial that I would pardon him," adding, "to accept a pardon, you have to admit your guilt."
Christie also dismissed the idea that Trump could use the Presidential Records Act as a defense. "He's dead wrong," Christie said, and added, the Presidential Records Act "does not cover national security and national intelligence documents.
Christie, who was the first major Republican politician to endorse Trump in 2016 and a key adviser during Trump's 2020 presidential campaign, now says he was "wrong" about Trump and called the evidence in the indictment "pretty damning" during Monday's CNN town hall.
The latest entrant in the GOP primary field told "CBS Mornings" that "no, I would not pardon him."
"People talking about pardoning him when the case hasn't started is insane to me," Hurd said. This case, he said, is "different" because the content of the classified documents Trump possessed. "This is information that if got in the wrong hands would lead to a loss of life. That is what makes this case different and the fact that Donald Trump willingly kept that material and he wants to be the leader of the free world is unacceptable to me," Hurd added.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has also slammed Trump, and called on him to drop out of the 2024 presidential race, said that a pardon "should have no place in the campaign."
In an interview with Scripps News, Hutchinson said that pardoning the former president would be a "misuse of the pardon power" and should have no place in the office of the president.
After Trump was indicted last week, Hutchinson called on him to drop out of the race, excoriating him for "his willful disregard for the Constitution" and "his disrespect for the rule of law."
Mayor Francis Suarez, the most recent candidate to join the 2024 GOP presidential race, says that if elected he would use the pardon power to "heal" the country, but it's still early to be talking about clemency.
"If I became president, one thing I would look at as president is using the pardon power to heal the country and that, by the way, doesn't go for one party; goes for both parties," Suarez said in an interview on MSNBC on June 16.
As mayor of Miami, Suarez was also on hand for Trump's arraignment. He said that "the president is innocent until proven guilty. He has to respond to a jury of his peers, and that process has to play out before any sort of a discussion on pardons can happen."
Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder told Scripp News it's "very likely" he would support pardoning Trump for the federal charges he is facing. But Elder, who supported Trump's presidency, said that Trump's electability is at stake, and he said that if he felt that the former president were "electable," he "wouldn't be running."
Presidential candidates who have not weighed in
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump's main political rival in the primary so far, has not said publicly whether he'd pardon Trump. DeSantis has criticized the Justice Department as "weaponized" in pursuing prosecutions "against factions it doesn't like" but also, after Trump had been indicted, "As a naval officer, if I would have taken classified [documents] to my apartment, I would have been court-martialed in a New York minute."
CBS News has reached out to DeSantis' campaign to ask if he would pardon Trump if he were convicted in the documents case.
DeSantis has also been asked whether he'd pardon those convicted of crimes related to the radio hosts Clay Travis & Buck Sexton if he'd consider pardoning defendants convicted for their participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots. DeSantis said his administration "will be aggressive at issuing pardons… on a case-by-case basis.", assault on the Capitol. He told conservative
Former Vice President Mike Pence has not weighed in on a pardon for the former president, but in a conversation with the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board on Tuesday, the day Trump was indicted, Pence said he had read the indictment, and "these are very serious allegations." He added, "I can't defend what is alleged. But the President is entitled to his day in court, he's entitled to bring a defense, and I want to reserve judgment until he has the opportunity to respond."
But he expressed concern about "the suggestion that there were documents pertaining to the defense capabilities of the United States and our allies, our nuclear program, to potential vulnerabilities of the United States and our allies," and added, "Even the inadvertent release of that kind of information could compromise our national security and the safety of our armed forces."
Although he has not made clear if he would pardon Trump, Pence told radio hosts Travis and Baxton Wednesday afternoon that he took "the pardon authority very seriously."
"It's an enormously important power of someone in an executive position and I just think it's premature to have any conversation about that right now," Pence said.
Asked whether he'd pardon Trump, the South Carolina Republican said he wouldn't "get into hypotheticals," but he added, "We are the city on the hill. We believe that we are innocent until proven guilty."
The former president has not publicly mentioned pardoning himself since he was indicted last week. If he were to win the presidency, his ability to pardon himself remains an open question. In 2018, when conditions were different — that is, while he still occupied the White House — Trump claimed he could.
"As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong," he tweeted in 2018.
Aaron Navarro contributed to this report.
for more features.