5 things we learned from Donald Trump’s town hall: From election lies to abortion bans

Donald Trump on CNN

Former president Donald Trump repeated lies, conspiracy theories and defaulted to name-calling at a live CNN town hall, just one day after he was found liable in a sexual abuse case. 

CNN hosted the Republican Presidential Town Hall with Donald Trump on Wednesday (10 May) from St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, in front of a crowd of Republican and undeclared voters. 

The former president and 2024 Republican presidential candidate took questions from CNN anchor, Kaitlan Collins, as well as from members of the audience, on a wide range of topics including his being found liable for the sexual abuse of magazine columnist E Jean Carroll.

As soon as the town hall began, the 76-year-old candidate was quick to reiterate lies about the 2020 election, which set the tone for the rest of the live event and revealed Trump to be the same uncontrollable, un-trustable figure he was in 2016. 

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Trump is already laying the groundwork for 2024 election rigging lies

When pressed by Collins to say if he would accept the 2024 presidential election result, no matter the outcome, Trump replied: “Yeah, if I think it’s an honest election, absolutely.”

His reference to an “honest” election harks back to his lies about the 2020 result, which he claimed was rigged. His words led to some of his supporters storming the US Capitol Building in Washington DC

“I think that, when you look at that result and when you look at what happened during that election, unless you’re a very stupid person, you see what happens,” the former president said, still refusing to accept his defeat to Joe Biden. 

At one point during the 70-minute interview, Collins said: “The election was not rigged, Mr President. You can’t keep saying that all night long.”

Trump also said he might pardon “many” of the Capitol rioters, several of whom have been sentenced to prison terms for their part in the riots.

When quizzed by Collins about whether he owes his former vice-president Mike Pence an “apology” for “endangering his life” on 6 January, Trump replied: “No, because he did something wrong. He should have put the votes back to the state legislatures.”

Doubling down once more on his election-rigging narrative, Trump continued: “I think we would have had a different outcome, I really do.”

A back-and-forth between Collins and Trump ensued over whether Pence had the right to send the votes back. 

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Republicans in the crowd weren’t phased by Trump’s sexual abuse verdict 

Despite Donald Trump’s town hall appearance coming just one day after he was found liable for the sexual abuse of magazine columnist E Jean Carroll, he was not repentant.

He called Carroll a “whack job” and described rape accusations made against him by the former Elle columnist as “hanky-panky in a dressing room”. 

The Republican audience cheered and clapped Trump’s jeers, despite the fact the jury found in Carroll’s favour and awarded her $5 million (almost £4 million) in damages. 

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Trump wouldn’t rule out a federal abortion ban 

Trump was vague on whether he would bring in a federal abortion ban and how many weeks the “limit” should be for an abortion, calling it a complex issue. 

The former president did, however, describe the overturning of the landmark abortion legislation Roe vs Wade as “incredible thing for pro-life” and a “great victory.”

During his presidency, Trump appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court – the most by a president since fellow Republican Ronald Reagan, who served two terms.

“I’m looking at a solution that’s going to work. Very complex issue for the country. You have people on both sides of an issue, but we are now in a very strong position,” Trump said. 

“Pro-life people are in a strong position to make a deal that’s going to be good and going to be satisfactory for them.” 

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Trump wouldn’t outright back Ukraine over Russia 

Donald Trump also refused to say whether he wanted Russia or Ukraine to win the ongoing conflict, after Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of his neighbours in February 2022, but claimed that if he had president, the invasion would have never happened and those who have died in the conflict “wouldn’t be dead today”. 

Trump also claimed the war would be over in 24 hours if he was in the Oval Office. 

However, the Republican contender failed to outline how exactly he would achieve this. “I don’t think in terms of winning or losing. I think in terms of getting it settled so we stop killing all these people,” he said. 

“I want everyone to stop dying, Russians and Ukrainians. I’ll have that done. I’ll have that done in 24 hours.”

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CNN has shown its true colours in platforming Donald Trump

In response to the town hall, public figures were quick to cast their views 

New York Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter that CNN was responsible for allowing Carroll to be targeted by Trump. 

“There is simply no way CNN can feign ignorance about the fact that they set up a sexual assault victim to be targeted and attacked on national television a day after the verdict,” she claimed.

“People were sounding the alarm about this exact scenario. They let it happen anyway, without a plan.”

In a second tweet, she went on: “This, the choice to platform election disinformation, lies about January 6th, totally unchecked and reckless claims about abortion… they need to take ownership of what just happened.

“This cannot be normalised. It’s dangerous.”

Hollywood legend Bette Midler said CNN giving Trump a platform hours after his sexual abuse verdict made her want to “throw up”.

In a piece for Rolling Stone, Michael Fanone – a DC police officer who responded to the Capitol riots – said CNN gave a platform to someone who nearly got him killed.

“Putting him on stage, having him answer questions like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy, he’s attempting to once again run, normalises what Trump did.

“It sends a message that attempting a coup is just part of the process, that accepting election results is a choice, and that there are no consequences, in the media or in politics or anywhere else.

“To me, allowing Trump an open forum on a major television news network is the moral equivalent of putting an AR-15 in the hands of someone mentally unstable.

“Whether words or bullets – and I have seen first-hand the effects of both – they are equally dangerous in the mouths or hands of those who have shown us time and time again what their true intentions are.”

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