The former president is expected to face tough questions from host Caitlan Collins and viewers.
WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump dug into his lies about the 2020 election CNN town hall He returned to the network on Wednesday, just a day after a civil court found him responsible for sexually assaulting a woman nearly three decades ago.
Under pressure, Trump has repeatedly played down the violence on January 6, 2021, the day his supporters stormed the US Capitol in a deadly riot, and has continued to insist the election was “rigged” even though there was no evidence of it. his claims. State and federal officials, his staff and the attorney general, as well as numerous courts, have found no evidence of massive fraud.
Trump also said he was inclined to pardon a “significant number” of the accused on Jan. 6 if he wins re-election, and refused to apologize to his former vice president, Mike Pence, who was targeted by the mob.
“I don’t feel like he was in danger,” he said, adding that it was Pence, not himself, who “did something wrong.”
The prime-time forum in New Hampshire brought together a network and a candidate who have long battled each other. But on Tuesday, the stakes rose significantly a New York jury convicted Trump of sexual assault and defamation advice from columnist E. Jean Carroll, although they rejected her claim that he had raped her.
A jury awarded her $5 million in damages. Trump called the ruling a “SHAME” and vowed to appeal.
While the civil verdict does not result in criminal charges, it does bring attention back to the multiple investigations underway against Trump, who has been indicted in New York in March for making payments to women to cover up allegations they had extramarital affairs with him. Trump has also faced investigations in Georgia and Washington over his alleged meddling in the 2020 election, his handling of classified documents and possible obstruction of justice.
A small group of anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the site of a town hall at St. Anselm College in Manchester on Wednesday night. Their signs read “No one is above the law” and “Elections, not rebellions.”
Carroll’s verdict also brings back questions about Trump’s treatment of women over the years that he will likely have to ask CNN anchor Caitlan Collins and the audience. Carroll is one of more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment over the years; Trump rejected these accusations.
Trump has tended to react poorly when pressured on stage behavior towards women, most notably during the first Republican presidential debate in 2015, when he sparred with then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. He later said she was “bleeding all over” when she questioned him.
Trump has a much more contentious relationship with CNN than he did with Fox at the time. Trump called CNN “fake news” and clashed with Collins. She was once banned from the Rose Garden event after Trump’s team became upset with her questions in the Oval Office.
Still, Trump’s team saw the invitation from CNN as an opportunity to connect with a wider range of voters than those who typically tune in to the conservative media he prefers.
“President Trump is battle-tested and a proven winner. He doesn’t shy away from anything and confronts them head on,” Trump’s press secretary Stephen Cheng said.
The appearance will also serve as another contrast to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is considered Trump’s main challenger for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He is expected to launch his campaign in the coming weeks. DeSantis has taken a guarded approach to the media, largely avoiding questions from the mainstream press while embracing Fox News, which was once a loyal Trump supporter but is now often vilified by the former president.
The Trump campaign has turned to new channels, including popular conservative podcasts and videos made for social networks which often get hundreds of thousands of views. His team also invited reporters from various publications aboard his plane and made unadvertised stops at local restaurants and other venues to show him interacting with fans, unlike the less charismatic Desantis.
It remains unclear how or if Tuesday’s verdict will affect the race. Trump’s indictment in New York appeared to only improve his standing in the GOP primaries, and his campaign raised funds from the verdict.
Trump’s rivals weighed in on the sentence, with some hitting him harder than others.
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called the allegations “another example of Donald Trump’s unjustified behavior.” Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy came to Trump’s defense and said he doubted the case would have been filed if someone other than Trump had been the defendant.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former ally now weighing a run as Trump’s antagonist, said Trump’s insistence that he had no idea who Carroll was was “ridiculous.”
“This kind of behavior is unacceptable for someone we call a leader,” Christie told Brian Kilmead on Fox News Radio. “Do I think this is the silver bullet that will end Donald Trump’s candidacy? No. I just think it’s an extra strong piece of evidence that people will look at.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to launch a campaign in the coming weeks, told NBC he doesn’t believe voters will pay much attention to the verdict.
“It’s just another story about my former running mate that I know is getting a lot of attention from the national media, but I don’t think that’s what the American people are focused on,” Pence said. He said he had “never heard of or witnessed this kind of behavior” while he served under Trump.
CNN’s town hall, the first major televised event of the 2024 presidential campaign, has already drawn suspicions from both sides of the political divide.
Democrats have questioned whether a man who continues to spread lies about his 2020 election loss — a lie that sparked a riot in the Capitol — should be given a prime-time platform. Conservatives questioned why Trump would appear on a network he consistently despised and potentially boost the ratings.
“They made me a deal I couldn’t refuse!!!,” Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social. “This could be the start of a new and vibrant CNN, with no more fake news, or it could be a disaster for everyone, including me. Let’s see what happens? Wednesday night at 8:00!!!”
He repeated the message in a video on Wednesday.