Lawmakers and political insiders had a wide range of reactions to former President Donald Trump’s participation in a town hall event hosted by CNN.
Trump’s May 10 appearance at the New Hampshire event allowed the candidate to present his plan for the country as he wades deeper into his 2024 presidential campaign.
Many Republicans congratulated the former president on his appearance, including avid Trump backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
“I enjoyed congratulating President Trump on his outstanding town hall and undefeated record against CNN,” Greene wrote on Twitter. “They had to air him telling the truth about how the 2020 election was rigged and stolen. We laughed and laughed.”
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) told NTD, sister media outlet of The Epoch Times, “I thought he did great,” and that he thinks the former president is “going to be our nominee.”
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said he was “glad” Trump did the town hall because “CNN is not exactly the bastion of conservatism.”
The congressman told NTD he believes that Trump is “one of the presidential candidates said that goes into every environment [and is] comfortable.”
“He tells his side of the story, and I imagined this more as a preview of coming attractions.”
Norman pointed to the focus on controversy over the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach and other legal issues, saying, “The negativity that they have around this man is unbelievable.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) was less decisive, telling NTD in an interview after the town hall that he was still unsure about whether he would endorse Trump as the Republican presidential candidate.
Diaz Balart said he would “obviously” endorse a Republican and voiced his concern for how the current administration is being led, indicating that his primary concern is making sure a Republican is elected. “One thing that I’m very clear on is that we need to do anything and everything that we can in a democratic process to make sure that this administration gets the heck out of Washington.”
When asked whether he believed Trump to be the strongest Republican candidate, Balart said he was a “big fan of President Trump” and considers him to be a friend. “I think his presidency is in stark contrast with this disaster that we have now with Biden, and but I think time will tell who’s going to be the strongest candidate.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s detractors in the party came out swinging. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wrote on Twitter: “Donald Trump refused to say tonight that he wanted Ukraine to win the war with Russia. More proof that he continues to be Putin’s puppet.”
Another group of anti-Trump Republicans, the Lincoln Project, added to their website that “CNN gave Donald Trump a campaign kickoff celebration tonight.”
The group asserted that leadership at the network “sold out CNN’s values to chase Tucker Carlson’s viewers in a desperate attempt to find lost ratings.”
“Tonight we saw the MAGA Trump Cult in full regalia.”
George Conway, notable Republican, Lincoln Project founder, and former husband of 2016 Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, said, “I’m no media expert, but it seems to me that interviewing a narcissistic psychopath in front of a packed house of his flying monkeys is not the best format for television journalism.”
Democrats Weigh In
Democrat responses were predictably negative, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) making an appearance on MSNBC to say that she found CNN’s televised event a “profoundly irresponsible decision.”
“What we saw tonight was a series of extremely irresponsible decisions that put a sexual abuse victim at risk … in front of a national audience, and I could not have disagreed with it more.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) was equally outraged, saying he might suffer long-term negative effects from watching the event.
“As someone who was at the Cleveland presidential debate, where President Trump ran right over Chris Wallace … I had a little bit of PTSD watching that last night,” Coons said on CNN on May 11.
President Joe Biden used the event to attempt to garner support for his campaign, writing on Twitter: “It’s simple, folks. Do you want four more years of that? If you don’t, pitch in to our campaign.”
Trump didn’t hold back during the exchange, which was the first major television event of his 2024 presidential campaign.
The former president stuck to his guns about the 2020 presidential election and his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach. When asked whether he regretted his actions in not disavowing violence sooner, Trump recited his tweets asking people to be peaceful at the march.
Trump also said he saw the conflict between Ukraine and Russia as a difficult situation that was more complicated than “winning” and “losing.”
The former president said that, if re-elected, he planned to secure the U.S.–Mexico border and would “drill baby, drill” for oil to ease economic pressure on Americans. On the debt crisis, Trump said he thinks the country will have to default at some point.
“Our country is dying. Our country is being destroyed by stupid people,” he said.
He said he believed that default is better than “spending money like drunken sailors” and that Republicans shouldn’t raise the debt limit, predicting that Democrats “will absolutely cave.”
Trump also addressed the topics of abortion and the Second Amendment, saying he is committed to protecting human life, protecting the right for Americans to keep and bear arms, and fighting the mental health crisis in the United States.
Janice Hisle, Steve Lance, and Melina Wisecup contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times