Several GOP senators pushed back on controversial claims made by Donald Trump at a CNN town hall Wednesday night, telling CNN they disagreed with him on a variety of issues in a sign of the party’s division in Former president’s Republican.
John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, told CNN after the town hall that Trump’s inability to appeal to voters outside his base is a “problem.”
“I don’t think he’s shown anything different than he’s shown people before,” Cornyn said. “He has an amazing ability to rally his base, but not to develop beyond his base, which is a problem.”
Cornyn added that he is “happy to let the process play out” during the primaries.
During the town hall, Trump made several false and baseless claims, including claims about the 2020 election, violence on January 6, 2021, the economy and his handling of the record after leaving the White House.
The former president would not say whether he wanted Russia or Ukraine to win the war, instead saying he wanted the war to end. Trump said he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin “made a mistake” by invading Ukraine, but he did not say Putin was a war criminal.
That’s something that “will have to be discussed later,” Trump said.
Sen. Todd Young of Indiana told CNN’s Manu Raju that he thought “President Trump’s judgment was wrong in this case” when asked about the comments on the war and Putin.
Young added that “of course it” worries him. “That’s why I don’t want to support him for the Republican nomination.”
Asked why he wouldn’t support Trump, Young said: “Where do I start?”
Later, Young told CNN, “I’ll support just about anybody but him.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, told Raju that Putin is “probably” a war criminal when asked about Trump’s town hall comments.
The former president also said he would pardon “a large portion” of the rioters at the US Capitol on January 6. “I’m inclined to pardon a lot of them,” Trump said Wednesday night.
Asked about Trump’s comments about pardoning rioters on Jan. 6, Hawley said, “If you ask me do I think we should pardon people who engage in riotous behavior? No.”
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina told Raju that, “anyone who crossed the Capitol (on January 6) under the circumstances that I witnessed firsthand, it is difficult for me to have a positive predisposition towards them.”
Trump also suggested in the town hall that Republicans should refuse to raise the debt limit if the White House does not agree to spending cuts – and suggested that if there are no major cuts then there should be a default.
“I said to the Republicans out there — congressmen, senators — if they’re not going to give you more cuts, you’re going to have to do a default,” Trump said, adding, “I don’t believe they’re going to do it.” in a default because I think the Democrats will absolutely cave.
When asked to clarify whether the US should default if the White House does not agree to the cuts, Trump said, “We’d rather do it now than do it later.”
Asked about the suggestion that maybe the country should default, Hawley said, “That’s not going to happen.”