Ronna McDaniel disagrees with Trump’s plan to free some Jan. 6 prisoners

Former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Sunday that she disagrees with former President Donald Trump’s plan to free those charged and convicted of crimes in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Do you disagree with Trump saying he’s going to free those who have been charged?” NBC News’ “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker asked.

“I do not think people who committed violent acts on Jan. 6 should be free,” McDaniel, who is a paid NBC News contributor, responded.

McDaniel added that “the violence that happened on Jan. 6 is unacceptable.”

“It doesn’t represent our country,” McDaniel said.

“If you attacked our Capitol and … you’ve been convicted, then that should stay,” she added.

Still, McDaniel maintained, “I don’t hold [Trump] responsible for” the attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Welker pressed McDaniel on why she didn’t speak out earlier about Trump’s plan to free people charged for Jan. 6 crimes.

“When you’re the RNC chair, you kind of take one for the whole team, right? Now I get to be a little bit more myself,” she said.

On Sunday, McDaniel also said Biden won “fair and square” and added that “he’s the legitimate president.”

“I do think it’s fair to say there were problems in 2020, and to say that does not mean he’s not the legitimate president,” she added Sunday.

The statement marks a shift from her interview last year with Chris Wallace on CNN in which she refused to say the election was fair and that “there were a lot of problems with 2020.”

“I don’t think he won it fair. I don’t,” McDaniel said of Biden at the time.

The former RNC chair has been accused of joining Trump to pressure Michigan election officials not to certify the 2020 presidential election there.

On Friday, NBC News announced that McDaniel would be joining the network as a political analyst. Her contract sparked significant criticism online. Deadline reported that MSNBC President Rashida Jones told staffers that it would be up to individual shows whether to book her.

NBC News Chief Political Analyst Chuck Todd questioned the veracity of McDaniel’s remarks on “Meet the Press” on Sunday and took issue with her coming on as a paid contributor.

“Look, let me deal with the elephant in the room,” Todd said to Welker during the roundtable panel after the McDaniel interview. “I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation because I don’t know what to believe. She is now a paid contributor by NBC News. I have no idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn’t want to mess up her contract.

“She wants us to believe that she was speaking for the RNC when the RNC was paying for it. So she has credibility issues that she still has to deal with,” Todd added.

“I think your interview did a good job of exposing I think many of the contradictions,” he said to Welker. “And, look, there’s a reason why there’s a lot of journalists at NBC News uncomfortable with this because many of our professional dealings with the RNC over the last six years have been met with gaslighting, have been met with character assassination.”

A spokesperson for NBC News declined to comment.

Looking to the 2024 presidential election, McDaniel said it’s OK for money given to Trump’s joint fundraising committee to flow first to a group that pays his legal bills as long as donors are informed.

“Is it appropriate for Donald Trump to ask donors to pay for his legal bills?” Welker asked.

“Well, I think as long as the donors know that that’s what they’re doing,” McDaniel responded.

McDaniel emphasized that the donation “waterfall” ensures that Save America will continue to be the primary vehicle for Trump’s legal bills, meaning that neither Trump’s campaign nor the RNC will foot the bill for Trump’s legal troubles, which include four criminal indictments. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

A portion of donations to the “Trump 47” joint fundraising committee will first flow to Save America PAC, a group that handles Trump’s legal fees, before flowing to the RNC or state Republican parties, according to a donation contribution form obtained by NBC News.

McDaniel also faced criticism as RNC chair for signaling earlier this year that Trump should be named the “presumptive nominee” of the Republican Party after New Hampshire’s GOP primary, just the second GOP nominating contest on the calendar.

On Sunday, she argued that the party was “neutral” during the primary process, citing the Republican primary debates last fall, which Trump refused to attend.

“We had a neutral primary. We had debates,” she said, adding: “That’s so important to our public discourse. So yes, I was neutral. But as I said at that time, there was no math and no path, and that was true. And so we did need to consolidate, consolidate behind the nominee.”

Still, McDaniel noted that Trump, who did not attend the debates, wasn’t supportive of them in any capacity.

“It was a lot of tension with the campaign. He really did not feel like we should have debates. He said this publicly. I got a lot of phone calls,” McDaniel said.

“Phone calls from Trump directly?” Welker asked.

“From everybody in his campaign and I did talk to him,” McDaniel answered.

Although he skipped all primary debates, Trump has said he wants to step onto a stage and face off against President Joe Biden in the general election. But the RNC voted in 2022 to withdraw from presidential debates sanctioned by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the entity that has overseen the process for decades.

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