In the lead-up to the 2024 caucuses and primaries, the top Republican contenders, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, have made a promise to pardon Donald Trump if elected as president.
While DeSantis and Haley argue that a pardon would be in the best interest of the country, others, like former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, vehemently oppose the idea, seeing it as a threat to democracy.
Haley, speaking at a campaign event in Plymouth, New Hampshire, firmly stated, “I would pardon Trump if he is found guilty.”
DeSantis, during a press conference in Iowa, invoked the precedent set by Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, saying, “It’s like Ford did to Nixon because the divisions are just not in the country’s interest.”
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, another Republican candidate, has also committed to pardoning Trump, condemning the charges against him as politically motivated.
The Charges and the Capitol Riot
Trump currently faces 44 federal charges and 47 state charges in four separate criminal cases. The most severe charges are related to allegations of obstruction of justice, which typically carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
However, it is unclear whether Trump would actually face imprisonment if convicted, as defendants rarely receive the maximum sentence.
The charges against Trump revolve not only around his conduct but also his alleged role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. This event is not only central to the criminal cases against him but has also influenced officials’ decisions to keep him off presidential primary ballots in two states.
Secretary of State Shenna Bellows of Maine, for example, has barred Trump from the ballot, a move that has sparked criticism from members of both parties.
Despite the charges, Trump maintains a significant lead in the polls leading up to the 2024 primary.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, he holds a nearly 50-point lead over his closest rivals, DeSantis and Haley.
In New Hampshire, Trump’s lead is slightly narrower but still commanding, with 46 percent of potential voters supporting him, a 28-point lead over the next candidate, according to a Washington Post-Monmouth University poll.
The Arguments for Pardon
DeSantis and Haley’s argument in favor of pardoning Trump rests on the belief that it is in the best interest of the country to move on from the controversies surrounding him.
They contend that having an 80-year-old former president in jail would only continue to divide the nation.
They draw parallels to Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, emphasizing the need to prioritize national unity and healing over pursuing legal consequences.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a supporter of Haley in the primary, echoes this sentiment, expressing understanding for her stance. He acknowledges the fatigue and weariness felt by many Americans regarding the drama and chaos associated with Trump’s presidency.
Opposition to Pardoning Trump
Chris Christie stands as a prominent voice opposing the pardoning of Trump. He argues that such a move would create a dangerous precedent, signaling a system of unequal justice where the privileged are treated differently from ordinary citizens.
Christie warns against allowing the country to devolve into a state resembling tinpot democracies that prioritize the interests of the powerful over those of everyday citizens.
Critics of the pardon argue that it would undermine the integrity of the justice system and send a message that some individuals, especially those in positions of power, are above the law.
They contend that accountability is necessary to uphold the principles of democracy and ensure equal treatment for all.
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