Asa Hutchinson urges GOP colleagues to not take Trump conviction 'lightly'

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) urged others in the Republican Party to take the recent conviction of former President Trump in his New York hush money case seriously, and to think about what it could mean for the upcoming election.

“You had 12 jurors who, from all appearances, really devoted themselves to seeking the truth in this case, and all 12 of them unanimously said on 34 counts, Donald Trump is guilty. I don’t think that should be lightly dismissed,” Hutchinson said Friday on “NewsNation Now.”

“You can challenge the judge’s jury instructions, it could obviously be reversed on appeal, but don’t diminish what the jury found after hearing weeks of testimony. And that’s the major point,” he added. “This is a serious moment for the United States of America. No one should be gleeful about a conviction of a former president.”

His advice comes after Trump became the first former president to be convicted on felony charges Thursday. He faced 34 charges of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the early days of the 2016 election to buy her silence over an alleged past affair, which he denies.

The former president gave remarks on Friday from the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, where he slammed Judge Juan Merchan over the verdict and blasted the trial as “a scam” and “rigged.”

Hutchinson said Republicans should be “very concerned” with how they address the conviction.

“Republicans should be very concerned that we have a presumptive nominee that has now been convicted of serious felony charges. And so that’s the message that I think’s important,” he said Friday. “We ought to be careful about how we address this.”

The former governor, who suspended his own long-shot bid for the White House in January, acknowledged that when the case was brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, he didn’t agree with it.

“I’m a former prosecutor. I know how to evaluate cases. This seemed to be a stretch at the beginning. But as the prosecution put forth their case, obviously, they met the technical requirements of the law. And they presented a case that the jury understood,” Hutchinson said.

“So yes, I was skeptical about it. I didn’t think it should have been brought, but it was,” he added.

Trump’s allies in the party and those fighting for a potential vice presidential spot have for weeks echoed the former president’s criticisms of the case, with several contenders even appearing at the courthouse. Following Thursday’s conviction, they unleashed attacks on the judge, the district attorney and the legal system.

Hutchinson pushed back on those efforts to rally around Trump, claiming he wouldn’t want to be in that position. He added that while the conviction could energize Trump’s base, he didn’t think the former president would get additional votes as a result.

“No Republicans want to cross swords with Donald Trump. And so, if he says something crazy, everybody’s trying to back it up or at least not disagree with it,” Hutchinson said. “That’s not how you function in a party or that’s not how you win elections, most importantly.”

“So we got to be more straightforward. America is going to figure this out as they always do,” he added.

The former president won’t face sentencing in the case until July 11, a date that comes just four days before he is set to officially become the GOP presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention. A conviction does not bar him from running for office.

NewsNation is owned by Nexstar Media Group, which also owns The Hill.

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