RNC declines request to amend loyalty pledge to free candidates from supporting convicted felon

Protester calling for Donald Trump conviction
(Image credit: Miguel Rodriguez Carrilo / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee on Thursday declined a request by presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson to modify the RNC's requirement that all GOP candidates pledge to support the eventual nominee, Politico reported. Candidates who do not sign the pledge will be barred from participating in GOP presidential primary debates. Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor, reportedly wanted an out if the nominee turns out to be a criminal.

Hutchinson told Politico on Wednesday, a day after former President Donald Trump was arraigned on 37 federal felony counts, that he is "not going to vote for him if he's a convicted felon. ... I'm not going to vote for him if he's convicted of espionage, and I'm not going to vote for him if he's (convicted of) other serious crimes. And I'm not going to support him." RNC leaders, he added, "need to put a little rationality to what is said in that oath or that pledge."

On a "contentious" phone call between Hutchinson staffers and RNC officials on Thursday, RNC leaders said the committee is "not dealing with hypotheticals" on Trump's legal fate, Politico reported. RNC senior adviser Richard Walters said in a subsequent statement that GOP candidates are only "being asked to respect the decision of Republican primary voters," and "candidates who are complaining about this to the press should seriously reconsider their priorities and whether they should even be running."

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Trump himself has not agreed to sign the RNC's pledge to support the eventual nominee. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he will sign the pledge in order to participate in the debates, but then take it only "as seriously as Donald Trump did eight years ago." A campaign spokesperson said Christie has been "pretty clear on his thoughts around the pledge and any future support for Trump — conviction or not."

Other GOP candidates have urged their rivals to pledge not only to support Trump if he wins the nomination but to pardon him if they win the presidency and he does not.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.