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News / Politics

Trump says he won’t sign Republican loyalty pledge, flouting debate requirement

By JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press
Published: August 11, 2023, 11:59am

Former President Donald Trump said Wednesday he won’t sign a pledge to support the Republican nominee if he loses the GOP presidential primary, flouting a requirement for appearing in the first debate later this month.

“Why would I sign it?” Trump said in an interview on the conservative cable network Newsmax. “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.”

He declined to name the candidates he wouldn’t support, saying “there’s no reason to insult them.” But he singled out South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy for praise, saying they “have been very nice.”

Trump said he will announce next week whether he’ll participate in the debate, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, but his refusal to sign the pledge suggests he plans to make good on his threat to skip it. Trump has repeatedly questioned why he should debate his rivals given his substantial polling lead and has suggested he might hold a competing event instead.

On Wednesday, he pushed back against former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s taunts, telling Newsmax’s Eric Bolling that there’s no upside to participating in a debate when he’s already leading by a wide margin.

“Its not a question of guts. It’s a question of intelligence,” Trump said.

Eight candidates say they have met qualifications to be on stage in Milwaukee, with former Vice President Mike Pence announcing this week he had secured enough donors. Candidates need to satisfy polling and donor requirements set by the Republican National Committee: at least 1% in three high-quality national polls or a mix of national and early-state polls, between July 1 and Aug. 21, and a minimum of 40,000 donors, with 200 in 20 or more states.

They also must sign a statement pledging not to participate in any debates not sanctioned by the party, including the general election debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and to support the winner of the Republican primary.

“I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination of President of the United States, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden,” the pledge says, according to a copy posted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. Candidates also must pledge not to run as an independent, write-in candidate or third-party nominee.

The pledge has been criticized by some candidates including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has been fiercely critical of Trump.

Despite his critique of the GOP’s pledge verbiage, Trump did apparently recently sign a document with a similar attestation that he would generally back the party’s nominees next year.

On Aug. 5, just after headlining the South Carolina Republican Party’s Silver Elephant fundraising dinner, Trump paid the $50,000 filing fee and signed paperwork for South Carolina’s Feb. 24 Republican primary, according to state party officials.

The filing form includes an affirmation by the candidate noting, “I generally believe in and intend to support the nominees of the Republican Party” in the 2024 general election.

A Trump campaign spokesman did not immediately return a message on Friday seeking comment on the paperwork filing.

Only former Texas Rep. Will Hurd has said definitively that he will not sign the 2024 pledge, though he has not met the polling and fundraising thresholds required to attend. He said he won’t support Trump, who has been indicted three times, if he becomes the eventual nominee.

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