Senator Tim Scott Avoids Question on Trump Pardon, Vows to “Clean Out” DOJ
South Carolina senator and 2024 presidential hopeful Tim Scott avoided saying whether he would pardon Donald Trump if the former president is convicted on federal charges relating to his mishandling of classified documents. “I’m not going to deal with the hypotheticals, but I will say that every American is innocent until proven guilty,” Scott told Fox’s Shannon Bream on Sunday.
Instead, Scott trained his ire on the Department of Justice, which he accused of trying to “hunt Republicans.” “We have to clean out the political appointments in the Department of Justice to restore competence and integrity in the DOJ today,” Scott said.
Scott’s comments Sunday make him the latest Republican presidential candidate to weigh in on the question of a potential Trump pardon, an issue fast becoming a dividing line among 2024 Republican hopefuls.
Among the current field, Trump’s most vociferous defender is biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy. The longshot candidate vowed to “pardon Trump promptly on January 20, 2025 and to restore the rule of law in our country.” Last week, Ramaswamy appeared outside the Florida federal courthouse on the day of Trump’s arraignment and said he’d sent a letter to each 2024 Republican candidate, asking them to publicly commit to pardoning Trump “or else publicly explain why you will not.” Fellow entrepreneur and presidential longshot, Perry Johnson, has also committed to pardoning the former president, and conservative radio host Larry Elder has also said he’d be “very likely” as well.
The prospect of pardoning the twice-indicted former president received a more lukewarm response from Nikki Haley. Last week, the former South Carolina governor said she was “inclined in favor of a pardon,” though she called the discussion “really premature” and made sure to call the former president “incredibly reckless with our national security.”
So far, two candidates—former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson— have come out against making a pardon pledge. “I can’t imagine if he gets a fair trial that I would pardon him,” Christie said on Wednesday, adding, “To accept a pardon, you have to admit your guilt.” Asked on Tuesday about fellow candidates floating Trump pardons, Hutchinson called the pledges “wrong,” “unjustified,” and “bad precedent.” “I want our candidates to show more courage and to speak out about this and provide leadership,” he said.
Other candidates, like Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former vice president Mike Pence, have taken Scott’s route, avoiding directly addressing a possible Trump pardon while vowing to attack the DOJ if elected. Using similar language to Scott, DeSantis has pledged to perform a “house cleaning on day one,” while Pence has promised to “clean house at the highest levels” of the DOJ.