On Trump’s Indictments, There Was No Debate

Republican presidential candidates Mike Pence, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season on August 23, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Welcome to the post-debate edition of The Collision. We trust you’re nursing that hangover well enough. Today also happens to be the day that the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president gets his mugshot—so if you self-medicated and don’t remember last night’s debate, don’t worry, the rest of America is soon to forget it, too.

About Last Night

For the first hour of Wednesday’s debate in Milwaukee, the Republican candidates had little to say about the legal jeopardy faced by their party’s frontrunner, Donald Trump. But going into a commercial break at 10 p.m. ET, co-anchor Martha MacCallum teased a block of upcoming questions about the former president’s indictments with a live shot of the jail in Fulton County, Georgia, where Trump will be processed today.

That ominous live shot turned out to have been the most attention Trump’s most recent indictment—alongside 18 associates, over their alleged attempts to pressure Georgia officials to change the outcome of the 2020 election—got during the two-hour debate. If any viewers were expecting a pile-on from the participants on the absent Trump, they didn’t get it.

When the Fox News broadcast returned from commercial, co-anchor Bret Baier asked for a show of hands: Who onstage would still support Trump as the GOP nominee if he is convicted of a crime? Every candidate, save former Govs. Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, raised his or her hand. Most, when given the opportunity to explain themselves, went after the “weaponization” of the Justice Department and “political” prosecutions. None of the remaining candidates made any arguments that the charges against Trump in any of the four jurisdictions where he’s been indicted disqualify the former president, and Vivek Ramaswamy even challenged his rivals to follow his lead and commit to pardoning Trump if elected president. (Mike Pence was not amused.)

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