Christina Nolan sidesteps questions on Trump in Senate GOP primary debate

From left, Gerald Malloy, Christina Nolan and Myers Mermel will face off in the Republican primary for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan on Thursday continued to sidestep questions about whether she supported former President Donald Trump during the first media-sponsored debate of Vermont’s U.S. Senate Republican primary race. 

Nolan was joined at the debate, hosted by Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, by commercial real estate banker Myers Mermel and U.S. Army veteran Gerald Malloy. They are vying for a seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. 

Responding to questions about “what kind of Republican” they are, Malloy and Mermel both said they voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. 

“On the issue of Donald Trump, there’s personality and policies,” Mermel said. “I believe his policies were beneficial for the country. I know people have issues with his personality.”

Nolan, on the other hand, refused to reveal her vote, citing her obligation to impartiality while holding the position of U.S. attorney. 

“The U.S. attorney must be completely above politics,” Nolan said. “No one ever knew my personal political beliefs while I was U.S. attorney, and I’m not going to say them now because I will not have doubt cast on the record of my office in being totally impartial.”

Moderator Connor Cyrus asked again who she voted for, but Nolan held firm.

“This is about not just me. This is about the 60 wonderful public servants who were doing work of integrity,” she said. “I will talk about who I am and what I’m going to do going forward, and I think Vermonters want to be forward-looking because there are so many problems facing Vermont today.” 

Trump appointed Nolan to her post as Vermont’s top federal prosecutor in 2017. Since announcing her Senate campaign, she has repeatedly dodged questions about her vote, and she has declined to say whether she would vote in favor of electing U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to be the chamber’s majority leader if Republicans retake control of the chamber. McConnell did, however, headline a D.C. fundraising event for Nolan in early May.

Mermel appeared to take issue with Nolan’s response. “I think it’s incumbent upon every candidate to be transparent,” he said. “We have almost a fiduciary responsibility to the voters, especially if we’re out of office.”

Each candidate agreed that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. But answers varied in response to a question about how they characterized the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Nolan reiterated that those who breached the Capitol should be prosecuted, adding that people who were protesting peacefully had the right to be there.

Mermel said Jan. 6 could be seen as “almost at the beginning of the second American Civil War.” He said he aims to bring “peace and prosperity,” but did not discuss accountability for those who committed violence.

Malloy emphasized that many protesters were “exercising their First Amendment rights.” 

“I almost went there that day. I didn’t, but wish I did,” he said, adding that he believed those who broke the law “need to be held accountable.”

The candidates also addressed gun laws in the wake of a series of deadly mass shootings in Oklahoma, Texas and New York — including an elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, during which 19 students and two teachers were killed. 

Mermel and Malloy both said they believe in upholding the Second Amendment and that they believe mental health issues are a greater contributor to mass shootings than the availability of firearms. 

“I don’t think the problem is guns,” Mermel said. 

Nolan emphasized bipartisan compromise and said she would work to pass federal red flag laws and deploy school resource officers.

On abortion rights, Nolan reiterated her support for allowing abortion in the first and second trimesters of a pregnancy and said she would not vote to support third trimester abortions. The candidate has previously cited this stance as the reason she does not support Proposal 5, which would enshrine reproductive rights in the Vermont Constitution.

Mermel cited his Christian background in explaining his opposition to abortion access but said he would accept the result of the forthcoming general election vote on Proposal 5. Mermel said he would not stand in the way of “the will of the people,” noting that Vermont is “probably the most pro-choice state in the Union.” 

Malloy said abortions should not be accessible to anyone in the U.S. and that if the opportunity arose, he would vote to ban abortion in all 50 states, with no exceptions. 

“It is my belief that per the Constitution and the tenth amendment that those powers are not reserved within the Constitution and therefore should go to the states respectively and the people,” Malloy said.

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Jenna Peterson

About Jenna

Jenna Peterson is a student at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in journalism and political science. She is news editor at the Daily Trojan at USC and was an editor of the Burlington High School student newspaper when it received a special New England Newspaper & Press Association award for successfully fighting a censorship effort by school administrators.

Email: [email protected]

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