Senate Republicans aired concerns Tuesday about former President Trump’s viability in a 2024 presidential election after a civil jury found he had sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll and ordered him to pay her $5 million in damages.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters that he does not believe Trump stands a chance in a November setting but added he didn’t think the verdict would move voters.
“I don’t think it changes anybody’s minds, one way or the other. … I think people who support President Trump, support President Trump. People who don’t support President Trump, don’t support him, and I don’t think this will have any impact,” Cornyn said.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has long been one of Trump’s foremost antagonists in the GOP, argued the verdict is further proof the 45th president has no business being the party’s standard bearer once again.
“I hope the American people, the jury of the American people, reach the same conclusion as the jury of his peers, which is that Donald Trump should not be our nominee and he certainly shouldn’t be president of the United States,” Romney said. “We have other people who are highly qualified that could lead our party to victory, and someone who’s been found to have committed sexual assault should not be the face of the Republican Party.”
“I think that there will be some people, surely, who say, ‘You know, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have someone who’s been convicted of sexual assault to be the face for my children and my grandchildren and the world,’” Romney added.
A number of other Senate Republicans questioned Trump’s ability to win a second, non-consecutive term if he is the GOP presidential nominee next year.
“Of course it creates a concern. How could it not create a concern? If what the woman says … he’s been found to be civilly liable, how could it do anything else but create a concern?” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters when asked about the verdict.
When questioned if the decision should disqualify him from office, Cassidy said: “That’s up to voters, I’ll just say that — but think about it.”
“If she were your sister, what would you think?” added Cassidy, who voted to convict Trump over his role in inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. “It kind of speaks for itself. You feel for Miss. Carroll, a woman should not be assaulted, period, end of story, period.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who has said in recent months that he plans to support Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) if he announces a presidential bid, called for a “unity” candidate in the party.
“The jury has spoken. And I know there’s a concern about, ‘what about our ticket,’” Rounds said. “I’m just looking for someone who will unite the party, and I think we’ll have several members who will unite the party and that’s what I’m waiting on.”
Trump maintained his innocence in an all-caps post on Truth Social shortly after the verdict was handed down.
“I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS. THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE – A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!,” Trump wrote.
A number of Senate Republicans, however, declined to wade into whether the latest development will hurt him in the looming 2024 contest.
“I think it’s clearly up to the voters. They’ll figure out what’s important to them,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year, told reporters.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said that he still believes the ex-president will be the GOP presidential nominee and added that Trump being found liable for sexual abuse will make the general election “interesting.” He said voters will have to weigh that against the “continuing pileup of scandals from the Biden White House.”
“That’s a choice that the voters make. … I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t [the nominee]” Hawley said.
Trump’s team has already said that they plan to appeal the ruling. Some Republicans leaned on that plan when asked about the Tuesday decision by the jury.
“We have the verdict and he’s going to appeal. I’m sure [there’s] more to follow,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said. “We’ll see what the appeals process brings.”