During an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he “assumes” former President Donald Trump is guilty in the case being brought by the Manhattan district attorney, but he will back the former president if he becomes the GOP presidential nominee.
Sununu made his comments while being grilled about his stance on Trump by the libertarian comedian known for his loathing of both far-left cancel culture and the man from Mar-a-Lago. As Sununu described Trump as a “circus” and dismissed his chances of being the GOP nominee, Maher asked, “But he is guilty, right?”
“Do you know what the indictments are?” Sununu responded. “I’m assuming he is, right? I mean, let’s just jump right at it. Which only helps him.
“I don’t think he’s going to be the nominee; he shouldn’t be the nominee; he can’t win in ’24,” Sununu added. “But this builds a lot of …sympathy; it solidifies his base.”
Maher followed up by asking Sununu to confirm his position on the 2024 race regarding Trump: He doesn’t believe Trump will be the nominee, but if he is, Sununu will vote for him as he did in the past two election cycles.
“Yes,” Sununu replied.
Most Republicans have gone out of their way to condemn the indictment of Trump by local District Attorney Alvin Bragg in an overwhelmingly Democratic jurisdiction rather than comment on his guilt or innocence.
“The law has been weaponized for political purposes” is how Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) described the indictment at a GOP event Saturday. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said it was “more about revenge than it is about justice.”
And millionaire businessman and author Vivek Ramaswamy, who has formally announced his candidacy, has made defending Trump from what he sees as a threat to the U.S. political system a key part of his campaign.
Even 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush denounced the Manhattan DA’s decision to indict. “Bragg’s predecessor didn’t take up the case,” Bush tweeted Saturday. “The Justice Department didn’t take up the case. Bragg first said he would not take up the case. This is very political, not a matter of justice. In this case, let the jury be the voters.”
And a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll after the indictment was announced found Trump has dramatically widened his lead over DeSantis in a hypothetical head-to-head race.
In an interview with The Washington Post, after the indictment news broke, Sununu said he was withholding judgment until he had more information rather than condemning the prosecutor. “I haven’t read what the charges are yet, so I don’t really have a take on the indictment directly.”
And Sununu added, “My biggest fear isn’t about whether he’s guilty or not. My biggest fear is that this is another giant political wedge that is going to divide this country even further. It creates a lot of partisan hype on both sides that is not constructive, that breaks down the barriers of better communication between the parties to get stuff done.”
The New Hampshire governor says he is considering his own White House bid, a field that grew a bit more crowded Sunday when former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson entered the race. Hutchinson has called for Trump to drop out of the race, but he has been pointedly measured with his comments on the Manhattan criminal case.
“I don’t like the idea of the charges, from what I’ve seen coming out of New York,” Hutchinson said. “But the process has got to work, and we’ve got to have respect for our criminal justice system, but also for the office of the presidency,” he told the Associated Press.
Maher pushed Sununu hard on his decision to support the Republican nominee, even if it’s Trump, which Sununu explained as simple party loyalty. “I’m going to support the Republican. Does that really surprise you? That a Republican governor and a lifelong Republican would support the Republican [nominee]?”
“It doesn’t surprise me; it disappoints me,” Maher replied. “My friend George Will told me, ‘You gotta have Chris Sununu on because he’s aggressively sane.’ That’s not sane.”