(WASHINGTON) — Arkansas’ Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday that the pro-Trump Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on Capitol Hill “disqualifies” Donald Trump from winning the 2024 GOP nomination as he considers his own challenge to the former president.
“I do not believe that Donald Trump should be the next president of the United States. I think he’s had his opportunity there. I think Jan. 6 really disqualifies him for the future. And so, we move beyond that. And that’s what I want to be focused on,” Hutchinson, who will soon travel to the early primary state of Iowa, told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
Karl pressed Hutchinson on if that view meant he definitively wouldn’t support Trump should Trump emerge as the Republican nominee for the White House in two years.
Hutchinson demurred and only said he would consider the options out of what is likely to be a crowded field.
“I want to see what the alternatives are. And it’s premature, Jonathan, to get into what might happen in 2024. That issue will come up. But I want to see everything I can do to make sure there is the alternative and that Donald Trump is not the nominee of the party. That’s the first thing, and let’s figure out how to do that,” Hutchinson said.
His comments come after the House panel investigating the 2021 Capitol attack recently referred criminal charges for Trump and others to the Justice Department over their alleged roles in the violence, including what the committee said was Trump conspiring to defraud the U.S. and aiding the insurrectionists.
Trump has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong and accused the House committee of politically persecuting him.
Hutchinson has consistently said he does not think Trump should be the 2024 nominee but acknowledged in his “This Week” interview that the former president remains the “front-runner,” citing recent polling and his name recognition from his celebrity status and four years in the White House.
Still, Hutchinson said he disagrees with considerations by the party to insert a rule into 2024 primary debates binding presidential candidates to support the GOP’s ultimate nominee.
“I think it would be a mistake to do that. I think it’s obvious that you’ve got a divided party in the sense that you’ve got a base of loyal Trump supporters. But you’ve got what to me is even a larger majority of those that say, ‘We want to go a different direction,"” he said.
Hutchinson has strongly suggested that he’ll make a run of his own after Trump launched his third presidential campaign in November. But he told Karl that there was nothing to announce yet.
“Obviously, I’m going to Iowa later this month. I’m excited about that. But no decision has been made now. And we can’t make a decision until a little bit later. But I want to be a part of the solutions for America,” he said.
That vision of problem-solving, he said, was one way other conservatives could differentiate themselves from Trump in the lead-up to the 2024 race.
“He does not define the Republican Party. And we have to have other voices. … It’s an opportunity for other voices to rise that’s going to be problem-solving, commonsense conservatives. And they can shape the future of the Republican Party but also provide the right counterbalance to [President Joe] Biden’s failed policies. And, to me, that’s what we have to do in 2023,” Hutchinson said.
Looking ahead to other possible 2024 contenders, Hutchinson said that Trump — despite his continued popularity within the GOP — no longer had the appeal of being “new” on the political scene. He argued that Trump’s blend of “chaos” and “anger” could be a turnoff.
“That’s not a new thing anymore. And so I think people move away from it rather than embrace it,” he said.
“You need to have simply a message that’s authentic to yourself, a message that is problem-solving and say, ‘This is what we need to do as a country.’ And that, to me, is the right contrast,” he said.
Hutchinson, who served four years in the House before serving in other federal and state roles, also knocked Rep.-elect George Santos, R-N.Y., after it was revealed following Santos’ midterm election victory that he fabricated or embellished several parts of his resume and personal life.
“There has to be accountability for that. That is unacceptable. I don’t know whether you can go so far as to not seat him but certainly the Ethics Committee should deal with this, and he has to be held accountable for that,” Hutchinson said. “That’s unacceptable in politics. It breaches the trust between the electorate and their elected official.”
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