Gov. Chris Sununu says removing Trump from the ballot lets him play the ‘victim card’


New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Sunday criticized efforts to remove former President Donald Trump from the 2024 primary ballot, saying that disqualifying him would allow him to play the “victim card” heading into the primaries.

During an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” host Dana Bash asked Sununu, a Republican, about his reaction to Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ recent ruling that Trump is constitutionally ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot next year over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Sununu, a vocal critic of Trump’s since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, decried the ruling as political in nature.

“Look, if there was any validity about keeping Trump off a ballot, you would see 48 other states trying to do the same thing,” Sununu said. “Personally, I think this is very politically motivated by the Maine secretary of state — Trump should be on the ballot. Everybody understands that.”

“This is a politician who I think has political aspirations down the road and trying to make a little bit of a name for herself,” he added. “Everybody just hopes that the … U.S. Supreme Court gets involved, overturns what Maine and Colorado are trying to do, make sure Trump’s on the ballot in 50 states, and we move on.”

Asked whether he agrees with some Republicans, such as GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie, who argue that removing Trump from the ballot would make him a “martyr,” Sununu replied, “Of course.”

“This would only … boost his opportunity to play that victim card down the road as we hit the primaries,” he added. “It’s not helpful at all, and I just don’t think it’s right.”

In a separate interview on CNN, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a former member of the House Jan. 6 committee, also weighed in on the argument that efforts to remove Trump from the ballot would make him a martyr.

“It may or may not. The question is, what does the Constitution say? Donald Trump can strike the pose of the martyr in any given context,” he said. “If he’s allowed to stay on the ballot despite his clear incitement of an insurrection and attempt to overturn the results in the 2020 election, and he loses to Joe Biden, as he almost certainly would — Biden beat him by more than 7 million votes last time, and we just have millions of young new voters who’ve joined the rolls, and they can’t stand Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”

“If he loses, he will feel himself a martyr there, and he will try to overturn the election result again,” he added. “So I don’t think we can run scared from Donald Trump.”

The Colorado Supreme Court this month issued a first-of-its-kind ruling that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — which states that no one who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after having sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution can hold office — prohibits Trump from holding office again due to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Trump is expected to appeal the ruling by the Colorado high court to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Courts in MichiganArizona and Minnesota have ruled against efforts to bar Trump from the 2024 ballot in those states.

Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley Receives Endorsement From New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu In Manchester (Sophie Park / Getty Images)Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley Receives Endorsement From New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu In Manchester (Sophie Park / Getty Images)

Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley Receives Endorsement From New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu In Manchester (Sophie Park / Getty Images)

Sununu, who has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, was also asked whether she made a mistake by declining to say that slavery was a cause of the Civil War during a New Hampshire town hall last week.

Haley said that it came down to “the role of government.” She later appeared to backpedal, saying in a radio interview on “Good Morning New Hampshire” that “of course, the Civil War was about slavery” and that her comments reflected what it “means to us today.”

“Well, look, she cleared it up quickly, right? Obviously, if something needs to be cleared up a little bit, you wish you had said it a little differently the first time, but it was quickly cleared up,” Sununu said. “It’s an absolute nonissue. She said, like you said, of course it was slavery.”

“I think she was talking more to the freedoms and liberties that we want for every American and the lessons that come out of that going forward. So, yes, I think she just kind of skipped right over the obvious,” he added. “And, yes, I guess the press and folks wanted to hear her come back to the obvious on slavery. She cleared it right up and everyone’s moving on.”

Asked again whether Haley’s initial comments were a mistake, Sununu agreed: “I mean, yes. If you have to clear up an answer, you go, gee, I guess I should have answered that differently. Let’s go clear it up, so, yes, sure.”

Sununu also weighed in on the candidacy of Christie, whom he said he considers a “friend,” saying the former New Jersey governor’s “race is at an absolute dead end.”

“This is a two-person race, right? It’s between Trump and Nikki Haley. Everybody understands that,” Sununu said, also noticeably leaving out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “He knows his voters, who want to see Trump defeated, are all coming over to Nikki Haley. In fact, the only person that wants Chris Christie to stay in the race is Donald Trump, right? I mean, think about the irony of that.”

Asked whether Christie should drop out of the race before the primaries, Sununu said, “There’s no doubt that if Christie stays in the race, the risk is that he takes [Haley’s] margin of the win, right?”

“And so I think Chris is going to make a quick calculation,” he said. “He’s really — obviously really upset all the pro-Trump people, right? I think he’s a smart guy. He wants to have a voice in this party. He doesn’t want to go forward upsetting all the anti-Trump people too because he kind of overstayed his welcome, put his ego first. So I just think he’s going to make the right decision in the end.”

In a statement Sunday afternoon, Christie spokesman Karl Rickett said, “The events of the last few days fully solidifies the point that Christie has been making for six months.”

“That the truth matters,” he added, “and if you can’t answer the easy questions you can’t fix the big problems.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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