Former President Trump’s Republican primary competitors scrambled to respond to the freshly unsealed federal indictment threatening him with up to 400 years in prison — with reactions ranging from full-throated defense to outright condemnation.
Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke warmly of his ex-boss Saturday as he addressed a friendly crowd of Republicans at North Carolina’s state GOP convention, saying he “couldn’t have been more proud to stand shoulder to shoulder every single day with President Donald Trump” during their single term in office.
Pence condemned the Department of Justice for its “politicization,” calling Trump’s indictment “a sad day for America.”
“I’m deeply troubled to see this indictment move forward, its capacity to further divide our country at a time when the American people are struggling as never before,” Pence said, demanding that Attorney General Merritt Garland “stop hiding behind the special counsel and stand before the American people and explain… the reasons for this unprecedented action.”
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy opened his Saturday morning speech at Georgia’s Republican Party convention with an attack on the “corrupt federal government” that is seeking “to stop my competitor in this race from running against me” by prosecuting Trump.
“Trump is now indicted for keeping classified documents even as Joe Biden has done the same thing while leading the same DOJ that now indicts his leading political opponent,” Ramaswamy told The Post.
“Today, we have two sets of laws based on your political beliefs,” he said. “This is the defining civil rights struggle of our era.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, too, condemned the Department of Justice in a speech to North Carolina Republicans Friday night.
“Is there a different standard for a Democrat secretary of state versus a former Republican president?” DeSantis asked, comparing the prosecution of Trump for mishandling classified documents and the pass given to Hillary Clinton for illegally emailing classified material to her unsecured home server.
“I think there needs to be one standard of justice in this country,” DeSantis said. “Let’s enforce it on everybody and make sure we all know the rules.”
Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called on Trump to end his campaign entirely Friday night.
“Staying the race does a disservice to the office of presidency and to the country and to the important decision that we have to make,” Hutchinson told reporters after speaking at Georgia’s state Republican convention.
And former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, perhaps Trump’s bitterest rival, blistered the ex-president during an appearance on CNN.
“Is this the type of conduct we want from someone who wants to be President of the United States?” Christie asked incredulously, calling the “very, very evidence-filled” indictment “devastating.”
“We have to focus on the conduct,” Christie told host Jake Tapper. “And the conduct is bad.
“Do we really believe that some one who has engaged in this type of conduct is going to be the best person to put up against Joe Biden?” he asked.
But the race’s two South Carolinians, former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, have said nothing about the matter since the indictment was made public.
Neither of their campaigns responded to The Post’s request for comment.