Rove Says Trump Should Not Promise to Pardon J6 Detainees

( – In a recent panel entitled “Elephants in the Room” hosted by MSNBC host Ari Melber at the 2024 Rancho Mirage Writers Festival, Karl Rove, Reince Priebus, and Adam Kinzinger shared their insights regarding each party’s likely nominees for the upcoming presidential election and their strategies. Rove leveled some harsh criticisms at presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, especially regarding his position toward January 6 detainees. Melber recapped those comments on his April 3 edition of “The Beat.”

Facing “The Most Unpredictable Election” Ever

The Rancho Mirage Writers Festival ran from January 31 through February 2 and featured some surprisingly heavy political hitters. Even though the panel took place ahead of Super Tuesday primaries, and before most GOP candidates had dropped out of the race, Rove began his analysis by pointing out that the presumptive nominees for both parties, based on polling, were shaping up as “the two most unpopular people ever to run for president.”

The former deputy White House chief of staff cited polling figures from Real Clear Politics showing Democratic incumbent President Joe Biden with a 55.8% unfavorable rating versus Trump’s 55.3% unfavorable rating. Rove added that the terms people most associated with Biden included “old” and “not up to it,” while they associated the terms “corrupt” and “criminal” with Trump. Rove said people wouldn’t vote for a candidate because they liked his policies or thought he would govern well but because he was “the lesser of evils.”

Additionally, Rove spoke about the increasing margin of voters flocking to third-party candidates in general elections and how that has affected outcomes for both Republicans and Democrats. He theorized that up to 10% of voters could cast their ballots for a third-party candidate in this presidential election, concluding, “How that falls out is anybody’s game.”

The Biggest Political Mistakes

Rove said that to many people, the events of January 6 signified “nothing,” just as to many top Democrats, Hunter Biden’s actions signified nothing. He went on to explain that he believed Democrats were making a mistake by saying that Trump represents a threat to democracy. He pointed out how Priebus talked about Republicans pointing to the FBI, the Justice Department, and other government agencies representing “the Deep State” as a threat to democracy.

Instead, the former Bush Administration aide said that smart Democrats would seize on the events of January 6 and Trump’s statements around it, especially his declarations that he would pardon J6 participants. Rove called Congress “one of the great examples of our strength and a jewel of the Constitution” and the violent attack on the Electoral College meeting “a stain on our history.”

He said Trump’s categorization of J6 detainees as “hostages” was a critical campaign mistake, and he chastised campaign aides who allowed Trump to indulge his “impulses” to identify himself with criminals instead of the rule of law. Rove concluded by saying he was a Republican who wanted a Republican president, but the nation faced a decision, and the GOP was making critical campaign errors.

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