Pence, DeSantis and more confirmed or potential 2024 rivals react to Trump indictment

ByAlexandra Hutzler and Mariam Khan ABCNews logo
Friday, March 31, 2023
Mike Pence calls Trump indictment an 'outrage'
Mike Pence called Donald Trump's indictment by a Manhattan grand jury an "outrage" and will "only further serve to divide our country."

Former President Donald Trump's indictment by a New York City grand jury was historic -- and quickly dismissed by him as politically motivated persecution -- and now opponents in his party are weighing in.

Trump was indicted and is expected to surrender early next week, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News on Thursday.

The charge or charges against him are not yet known while the indictment remains under seal, though he has been under investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 campaign, to keep Daniels from going public with a claim of an affair that he denies.

Congressional Republicans quickly came to Trump's defense after the news broke, with many echoing his view that Bragg's actions are partisan.

Some of Trump's confirmed or prospective rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination also spoke out.

In an interview with CNN later Thursday, Mike Pence called it an "outrage," arguing that the case against Trump is "tenuous" and will "only further serve to divide our country."

"It appears to millions of Americans to be nothing more than a political prosecution," Pence, who served as Trump's vice president and is weighing his own 2024 bid, said on CNN. He went on to say it "offends" the ideals of fair and equal treatment under the law.

Pressed by anchor Wolf Blitzer, Pence said that "no one is above the law, including former presidents ... and the American people know this." But he maintained that this case was different.

He declined to say if Trump should be disqualified or drop out of the 2024 race if he is convicted but also said that there is "no reason for calling for people to be protesting" the indictment, despite Trump's statements otherwise.

He also said there was "harsh language on either side" that was "unacceptable."

Pence said that the development had "no bearing" on whether he will seek the GOP nod next year himself and likened the matter to an example of the news media's "obsession" with Trump while, in his own travels across the country, "Not one person raised this issue" compared with the Biden administration's "failed policies."

His reaction was shared by other leading conservatives already in the White House race -- and those who might join.

"This is more about revenge than it is justice," former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tweeted shortly after the indictment. Haley announced her presidential candidacy in mid-February.

Attached to her tweet was a video of a previous appearance on Fox News, in which she alleged Bragg was looking to score "political points."

"I think the country would be better off talking about things that the American public cares about than to sit there and have to deal with some political revenge by political people in New York," she said at the time.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who is seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate, argued in his own reaction that Bragg "has failed to uphold the law for violent criminals, yet weaponized the law against political enemies."

"This is a travesty and it should not be happening in the greatest country on Earth. The presumption of innocence is central to our legal system, yet is selectively discarded by those on the far left today," Scott said.

Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has said he is weighing a presidential campaign, tweeted Thursday that "prosecuting serious crimes keeps Americans safe, but political prosecutions put the American legal system at risk of being viewed as a tool for abuse. DA Bragg - spend taxpayers' money and your energy protecting law-abiding citizens. Not playing politics."

Vivek Ramaswamy, a businessman and another Republican candidate for president, posted his reaction in a Twitter video.

"This is wrong. This is dangerous," he said. "We are skating on thin ice as a country right now."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom sources have told ABC News is expected to launch a presidential campaign in the coming months, tweeted that the indictment was "un-American" and "a weaponization of the legal system."

Florida, he wrote, would "not assist in an extradition request."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is also considered a possible 2024 contender, called it a "dark day for America" but said the New York City jury must have found evidence to support the unprecedented move.

"While the grand jury found credible facts to support the charges, it is important that the presumption of innocence follows Mr. Trump," Hutchinson said a statement. "We need to wait on the facts and for our American system of justice to work like it does for thousands of Americans every day."

A spokesperson for Bragg's office said Thursday: "This evening we contacted Mr. Trump's attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.'s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected."

ABC News' Katherine Faulders, Aaron Katersky and John Santucci contributed to this report.