WASHINGTON -- Asa Hutchinson, former Arkansas governor and current Republican presidential candidate, said the public should not "lightly dismiss" a New York jury's verdict finding former President Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse.
Hutchinson's comments Tuesday evening stem from a jury's decision that found Trump responsible for sexually abusing columnist E. Jean Carroll. The nine jurors additionally found Trump liable for defaming Carroll in denying her claims.
Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett, Hutchinson described the verdict as a "significant event."
"I've practiced law for many years, I've been in the courtroom, and I give respect to what juries find," he said. "By and large, they get it right."
To read more about Hutchinson, who launched his presidential campaign in April, visit arkansasonline.com/AsaHutchinson2024/.
According to Carroll, she encountered Trump at Bergdorf Goodman -- a New York City department store -- sometime during the spring of 1996. He asked for help in buying lingerie as a gift. Carroll testified the two were jovial until Trump shoved her against a wall in a dressing room and sexually assaulted her.
Carroll said she first met Trump in 1987. Trump, who did not attend the civil trial, has said he does not remember the meeting and denied her claims.
The jury reached its verdict after three hours of deliberations. Jurors did not find prevailing evidence to support a claim Trump raped Carroll, but instead evidence finding him liable for sexual abuse. The jury additionally determined Trump defamed Carroll when denying the claims, which included calling her a "nut job."
The jury awarded $5 million to Carroll; the judgment includes $2 million and $20,000 in punitive damages for sexual abuse, as well as $1 million in damages, $1.7 million for reputation repair and $280,000 in damages regarding Trump's defamatory actions.
Hutchinson called the verdict the byproduct of a functional justice system, referencing the jury's speed in reaching a verdict.
"What's remarkable about the United States of America is our rule of law and our justice system. It's the envy of the world," he said. "We can't have leaders that undermine it and disrespect it. And here, it worked."
Hutchinson has not shied from criticizing Trump, who remains the dominant figure among Republicans. The former governor has argued Trump's support of unproven claims regarding the 2020 election and the ensuing Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol should disqualify Trump from a second White House tenure.
After a separate jury in March indicted Trump over payments covering a sexual relationship with pornographic actor Stormy Daniels, Hutchinson called on Trump to drop out of the GOP primary.
Trump lambasted Tuesday's verdict on social media, calling it a "disgrace" and "a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time." Hutchinson contended Trump's "dismissive attitude" toward the justice system is "a factor in it of itself," adding Trump's legal issues are a distraction from policy issues.
"Anybody who wants to be the president and lead the free world, to have these kinds of serious issues around is a significant factor," the former governor said.
"I don't know if this is going to change things. I don't know. But I believe it is an important issue for the public to weigh as to what this says about a person and what this says about who will be our next leader."
Hutchinson additionally warned Republicans against downplaying the verdict, saying the jury system "worked in this case."
"People will try to dismiss it because maybe it happened a long time ago or because they just believe it was an attack on him, that he's a victim of this somehow, but by and large, I think this is going to have credibility, and it should have credibility," he said.
Hutchinson formally launched his presidential campaign last month in Bentonville. National polls have the Arkansan polling around 1% among declared and possible Republican candidates. Trump leads the field with a majority of respondents across multiple surveys backing his White House bid.