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Republican presidential hopeful Hutchinson says Trump should exit race over Jan. 6 attack


U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson speak about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response during a meeting with Hutchison and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican running for U.S. president, said he would not have pursued the hush-money case against former President Donald Trump, but said his 2024 rival bore “significant responsibility” for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and should exit the race.

In an interview with Reuters, Hutchinson called the Manhattan criminal probe into hush money paid to a porn star on the eve of Trump’s 2016 election victory a misguided use of prosecutorial discretion against a former president.

But a federal probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol and an investigation in Georgia into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results were based on “serious allegations” and worthy of criminal scrutiny, he said.

“Jan. 6 undermined our democracy, our transition of power. It’s unacceptable, and former president Trump bears significant responsibilty,” Hutchinson, 72, said. “What happened and his actions there should disqualify him from being president.”

Hutchinson, who was governor of Arkansas from 2015 until early this year and declared his presidential candidacy on Sunday, has stood out from other potential 2024 rivals who have declined to criticize Trump in the wake of the charges.

“We need a leader in our country that can bring out the best of America and not appeal to our worst instincts,” he said.

His comments came on the same day that Trump flew to New York City to face charges in the hush money probe. Trump is expected to plead not guilty when he appears in Manhattan court on Tuesday.

Trump, who is seeking to regain the presidency in 2024, is the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges.

Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor, said he would not have pursued the Manhattan case, believing it to be based on a “unique legal theory” applied to a payment that only came under scrutiny because of its proximity to the 2016 campaign.

“This is not good for the United States of America,” he said. “Now if it comes back out tomorrow with blockbuster facts that we are not aware of, that would change the scenario.”

The indictment appears not to have hurt Trump’s standing in the primary race. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Monday found that 48% percent of Republican voters wanted Trump to be their nominee, up from 44% last month.

Hutchinson estimated that less than one third of Republican voters were the kind of hard-core Trump supporters who “love the spirit of Donald Trump and how he creates chaos” and would not consider another candidate in the primary.

But Hutchinson sees an opening for a candidate without Trump’s legal baggage. He said he also had some fundamental policy differences with Trump, criticizing Trump’s big spending package in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and his “isolationist” stance on foreign policy matters like Taiwan and Ukraine.

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