Republican presidential candidates credited former Vice President Mike Pence during the Wednesday debate for not caving to former President Trump in refusing to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Moderator Martha MacCallum asked the candidates about their views on Pence moving forward with certifying the results of the election on Jan. 6, 2021, and if he acted properly. Every candidate who was asked the question said Pence took the right actions.
“Mike Pence stood for the Constitution, and he deserves not grudging credit,” said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a vocal critic of Trump. The former president has held a large lead in polls of the GOP race but skipped Wednesday’s debate.
“He deserves our thanks as Americans for putting his oath of office and the Constitution of the United States before personal political and unfair pressure,” Christie added of Pence.
Christie said the country needs to “dispense with the person” who said the Constitution needs to be suspended, referencing a Truth Social post that Trump made in December in which he called for “termination” of the Constitution’s election rules.
Several other GOP candidates on stage praised Pence’s actions on Jan. 6, including Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
Scott said Pence “absolutely did the right thing” but argued that the country should “be asking ourselves a bigger question about weaponization” at the Justice Department (DOJ), arguing confidence in the justice system is low. Many Republicans have railed against alleged politicization at the DOJ over recent months, especially as Trump has been indicted in several jurisdictions.
“This DOJ uses their power, uses their authority, not just against political opponents but against conservatives and conservative causes,” Scott asserted. “It is time for a change in America.”
DeSantis initially avoided directly saying if Pence acted correctly and instead focused on alleged weaponization at the DOJ. He said the country needs to focus on the future instead of the past and “reversing the decline of our country.”
The Florida governor has previously said Republicans need to not focus on the 2020 election in their effort to win back the White House next year.
After Pence said everyone deserves to know if all the candidates agree that he upheld his oath to the Constitution, DeSantis responded that, “Mike did his duty. I got no beef with him.” He then questioned the focus on “the rehashing of this.”
The candidates were also asked their reaction to the multiple indictments that Trump is facing. All of the candidates were asked if they would continue to support Trump if he is the party’s nominee yet is ultimately convicted in any of the cases against him.
All but Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson raised their hand to indicate that they would continue to support him.
Hutchinson said Trump is “morally disqualified” from being president again because of what happened during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. He said some conservative legal scholars have argued that Trump might be disqualified from serving as president again through the Constitution’s 14th Amendment because of his involvement in events around Jan. 6.
The amendment states that anyone who engaged in “insurrection” against the country cannot serve in elected office again.
“Obviously, I’m not going to support someone who has been convicted of a serious felony or who has been disqualified under our Constitution,” Hutchinson said.
Christie on Wednesday also sparred with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who has said he would pardon Trump if elected president, over whether Trump should continue to have support if he is convicted of the charges against him.
Christie said Trump’s conduct needs to not be normalized.
“Whether or not you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States,” he said.
Ramaswamy responded that Christie’s argument that Trump is motivated by “vengeance and grievance” would be more credible if his “entire campaign were not based on vengeance and grievance against one man.”
He added that if people want to see “blindly bashing Donald Trump without one iota of vision for this country, they can just change the channel to MSNBC.”
“We’re skating on thin ice, and we cannot set a precedent where the party in power uses police force to indict its political opponents,” Ramaswamy said.