Former President Donald Trump didn’t participate in Wednesday’ GOP primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but he still stole the show when a question about his myriad legal problems caused a shouting match between two of his rivals.
That would be former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who got into it after Christie denounced Trump, declaring his erstwhile friend to be unfit for the presidency.
“Someone’s got to stop normalizing this conduct,” Christie said about Trump.
Trump is of course the overwhelming front-runner with likely Republican primary voters — a dominance complicated by the fact he currently faces 91 felony charges across four indictments.
Debate moderator Martha MacCallum brought up the topic about halfway through the debate, referring to Trump as “the elephant not in the room“.
“If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law would you still support him as your party’s choice?” she asked.
While most of the nominees onstage raised their hands to indicate they would choose to support Trump, Chris Christie waved his hand to the side. MacCallum noted that Christie was “kind of late to the game there” in terms of demonstrating his support.
After attempting to deflect, Christie suggested his gesture was actually a dismissal of the question, adding: “Here’s the, here’s the bottom line, someone’s got to stop normalizing this conduct.”
He continued, “Now… and now whether or not you believe that the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of the President of the United States.” As the audience began to boo, he continued, “Hey, and you know, this is the great thing about this country. Booing is allowed, but it doesn’t change the truth.”
Christie repeated, “It doesn’t change the truth.”
That’s when Ramaswamy jumped in. “President Trump, I believe, was the best president of the 21st century. It’s a fact. And Chris 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 one man,” he said.
“We’re skating on thin ice, and we cannot set a precedent where the party in power uses police force to indict its political opponents. It’s wrong,” Ramaswamy continued.
Not to be shut down, Christie rounded on Ramaswamy and said of the latter’s book, “You had much different things to say about Donald Trump [in your book] than you’re saying tonight.” As Ramaswamy denied that allegation, Christie continued, “It’s very true, and I read it, and I know, by the way, you know what, I know a lot and I know a lot better than you do.”
He added, “You’ve never done anything to advance the interests of this government except to put yourself forward as a candidate tonight.”
Watch the heated exchange between Christie and Ramaswamy in the video above.