Biden should have pardoned Trump on federal charges, Mitt Romney says

Joe Biden should have pardoned Donald Trump on all federal criminal charges the moment they were announced, the Utah senator and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said.

“Had I been President Biden,” Romney said, “when the justice department brought out indictments, I would have immediately pardoned him. I’d have pardoned President Trump.”

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“Why? Well, because it makes me, President Biden, the big guy and the person I pardoned the little guy. And, number two, it’s not going to get resolved before the election. It’s not going to have an impact before the election. And, frankly, the country doesn’t want to have to go through prosecuting a former president.”

Romney was speaking to MSNBC, in an interview to be broadcast on The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle on Wednesday night.

Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee despite facing 88 criminal charges. Forty-four are federal: four regarding election subversion and 40 retention of classified information. Neither case has reached trial.

The president could not pardon Trump on his other 44 charges, at the state level. Thirty-four arise from hush-money payments to an adult film star around the 2016 election, an election subversion case now at trial in New York, and 10 concern election subversion in Georgia.

Trump has also been hit with multibillion-dollar fines in civil suits concerning his business practices and a defamation claim arising from a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”.

When Trump was president, Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict in both Trump’s Senate impeachment trials, for seeking political dirt on opponents in Ukraine and for inciting the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.

Romney told MSNBC: “I think the American people have recognised that President Trump did have an inappropriate affair with someone who was a porn star. I think they realise that.

“I think they realise he took classified documents he shouldn’t have and didn’t handle them properly. I think they understand that as well.

“I think they realise he’s been lying about the election [and supposed voter fraud] in 2020. They know those things. [But] these things are not changing the public attitude.”

Polling has put Trump ahead in battleground states.

In America’s pre-Trump past, Romney lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama. In 2016, as Trump stormed to the White House, Romney wrote in the name of his wife, Ann, rather than support Hillary Clinton. Romney then flirted with accepting a post in Trump’s cabinet, as secretary of state, but found humiliation instead.

According to the author Gabriel Debenedetti, Romney urged Biden to run against Trump in 2020. Romney has said he did not vote for Trump that year, reportedly writing in Ann again.

Romney told MSNBC he liked Biden, who he found “capable” despite widespread claims that at 81 Biden is too old for his job, claims less prevalent regarding Trump, who is 77.

But when asked who he would vote for, Romney did not say Biden.

Related: Romney mulled Trump job for ‘noble and self-centered’ reasons, book says

“I’m not announcing that here and now,” he said. “I’m not going to be voting for President Trump. I made that clear. I know, for some people, the character is not the number one issue. It is for me. When someone has been, well, determined by a jury to have committed sexual assault, that’s not someone who I want my kids and grandkids to see as president of the United States.”

Criticising Biden on the economy and border security – though acknowledging Trump’s role in stopping a bipartisan border measure passing Congress – Romney told MSNBC: “I don’t know if that’s [Trump’s] ambition to bring people together. I’m not sure exactly what it is he hopes to do if he gets a second term.”

Asked about continued surprisingly strong Republican primary performances by Nikki Haley, who dropped out more than two months ago, Romney rejected the idea that a moderate wing of his party could yet seek to retake control.

“My wing of the party, it’s like a chicken wing, all right?” the senator said. “It’s a little tiny thing that doesn’t take the bird off the ground.”


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