GOP candidate hails Trump ‘best president’ in fiery debate as others take aim

SPARKS have flown at the first Republican debate of the presidential primary cycle as candidates were forced to take sides on hot button issues.

The candidates were pressed on a series of topics from more support for Ukraine to the threat of China and the topic quickly turned to former president Donald Trump and his growing rap sheet.


Vivek Ramaswamy expressed his support for former President Donald Trump during the first Republican primary debateCredit: Getty
The comment came after the candidates were asked if they would support Trump if he were convicted


The comment came after the candidates were asked if they would support Trump if he were convictedCredit: AFP
Trump will turn himself in to the Fulton County jail in Georgia tomorrow on election fraud charges


Trump will turn himself in to the Fulton County jail in Georgia tomorrow on election fraud chargesCredit: Getty

Fox News moderator Brett Baier brought up Trump’s indictment nearly an hour into the debate.

Trump, 77, is expected to turn himself in to the Fulton County jail in Georgia tomorrow on charges of election fraud.

“You all signed a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. If former president Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him as your party’s choice?” asked Baier.

“Please raise your hand if you would.”

Ramaswamy quickly raised his hand first, followed by Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Mike Pence, and Doug Burgum.

Chris Christie, who has been critical of Trump in the past, raised his hand last but was hesitant about expressing his support.

“Here is the bottom line. Someone’s got to stop normalizing this conduct,” said Christie, who was met with a chorus of boos.

“Whether or not you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States.”

Ramaswamy, who had clashed with Christie earlier in the night, defended the former president.

“President Trump, I believe was the best president of the 21st century,” he said before turning to Christie.

“Honest to God, your claim that Donald Trump is motivated by vengeance and grievance would be a lot more credible if your entire campaign were not based on vengeance and grievance against [him].”

The audience cheered for Ramaswamy, showing their support for Trump.

Christie and Ramaswamy exchanged words earlier in the night after the former governor of New Jersey seemingly took offense to the entrepreneur claiming that he was the only candidate who wasn’t “bought and paid for.”

As the crowd booed, Christie slammed Ramaswamy for sounding like “ChatGPT.”

Meanwhile, Asa Hutchinson, former governor of Arkansas, was the only one who did not raise his hand when asked if he would support Trump if he were convicted of a crime.

“I am not going to support somebody who has been convicted of a serious felony or who has been disqualified under our Constitution and that is consistent with RNC rules and I hope everyone would agree with me,” Hutchinson said.


One of the other pressing topics in the debate was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as Haley, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, slammed Ramaswamy.

Ramaswamy said he would freeze the current lines of control in Ukraine if Russia promised not to form an alliance with China.

Former Vice President Pence told Ramaswamy “if we do the giveaway that you want to” and give eastern Ukraine to Russian President Vladimir Putin “it’s not going to be too long” before he enters a NATO nation.

However, Ramaswamy argued that “Ukraine is not a priority for the United States of America,” calling China a bigger threat.

Haley doubled down, arguing that a win for Russia is a win for China and called Ukraine the first line of defense.

“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” she told Ramaswamy.

Christie said that he went to Ukraine to “see for himself” what the government was doing to their nation.

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He went on to share gory details of the war before being buzzed for time.

“This is the Vladimir Putin who Donald Trump called brilliant and a genius,” he added, which got boos from the crowd.

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