GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was grilled Sunday over his decision to defend Donald Trump despite claiming he disagrees with much of the indicted former president’s behavior.
Speaking to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” the wealthy businessman said he did not support Trump’s actions during the 2020 election that led to the ex-president facing criminal indictments. But the candidate maintained that he believes Trump should not be prosecuted for such behavior.
“I would have handled that situation very differently than Trump did,” Ramaswamy said of the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. “But I do draw a distinction, George, between bad behavior and illegal behavior. And once we start conflating those two things, I think we’re in a long downward slide as a country.”
In some 2024 polling, Ramaswamy has found himself among the top Republican presidential candidates behind Trump’s massive lead. The 38-year-old’s story is not dissimilar to Trump’s. He entered the field as an investor and political newcomer who is self-funding his campaign with an eye to being a younger and more coherent conservative who can carry out the ex-president’s vision.
When Stephanopoulos asked on Sunday if Ramaswamy believed it was wrong for Trump to create a slate of fake electors following the 2020 election, the GOP candidate danced around the question by trying to focus on his own campaign. After being pressed, Ramaswamy said he would not have nominated phony electors.
Stephanopoulos then asked if Ramaswamy believed it was wrong of Trump to encourage his followers to storm the Capitol, to which the candidate defended the ex-president, saying Trump encouraged “peaceful protest.”
“I disagree with a lot of what he did that day. I said so at the time. I say so today, George. I haven’t wavered on that,” Ramaswamy said. “But that is still different from saying that he should be prosecuted for it, which I think sets a dangerous precedent of First Amendment infringements in this country and sets a dangerous precedent for eliminating political opponents in the midst of an election.”
Ramaswamy also called Trump’s indictments an “illegal prosecution,” which the ABC host fact-checked by saying there is no evidence to support such a claim.
“You find his actions abhorrent around Jan. 6. You said he was wrong to take the classified information. You said you would not do that yourself,” Stephanopoulos said. “But you still say you would vote for him for president. That’s what I don’t get.”
“What I’ve said is clear,” Ramaswamy said. “If Donald Trump’s the nominee, yes, I will support him. And if I’m the president, yes I will pardon him, because that will help reunite the country.”