GOP Rep. Tom Rice voted to impeach Trump after January 6 and has called him a “would-be tyrant”
But he says if Trump said “sorry” for his role in the attack, he would “consider” backing him again.
Rice faces a tough reelection effort against Trump-backed challenger Russell Fry.
Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina – who has compared former President Donald Trump to an authoritarian leader multiple times and was one of just a handful to vote to impeach him after January 6 – says he might reconsider all of that if the former president simply apologized for his role in provoking the attack.
Speaking with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl ahead of a high-stakes primary election on June 14, Rice was asked if he could ever support Trump again.
“No,” said Rice before quickly stopping himself.
“There’s one way: if he apologized,” said Rice. “If he came out and said: I’m sorry that I made a huge mistake on January 6th, then I might consider it,” he added.
But the fifth-term South Carolina Republican – facing a stiff challenge from Trump-backed State Rep. Russell Fry – also said he thinks it would “hurt” the party if the former president ran again.
Rice was one of ten House Republicans who joined every Democrat in voting to impeach Trump for incitement of an insurrection following the deadly attack on January 6. In a statement regarding his vote – taken just days after the riot – he lambasted Trump for his failure to reckon with the harm he’d caused.
“The President has not addressed the nation to ask for calm. He has not visited the injured and grieving. He has not offered condolences. Yesterday in a press briefing at the border, he said his comments were ‘perfectly appropriate,'” said Rice at the time.
“I have backed this President through thick and thin for four years. I campaigned for him and voted for him twice. But, this utter failure is inexcusable,” he added.
Since then, Rice has compared Trump’s actions leading up to January 6 with that of a dictator.
“If the president, by force, can intimidate Congress into voting their way, then we might as well do away with Congress and hand it over to a king,” Rice said in an interview with the Washington Post in May 2021. “What he did in my mind is what dictators do. “
And following a Trump rally in South Carolina in March, Rice issued a statement condemning his primary opponent, Fry, as someone who “supports a would-be tyrant over the Constitution” and “makes decisions based solely on re-election.”
But even as Rice signals that a simple apology from Trump could make him forgive his actions, he defended his vote to impeach Trump in that same interview with ABC News.
“Defending the Constitution is a bedrock of the Republican platform, defending the Constitution, and that’s what I did. That was the conservative vote. There’s no question in my mind,” he said. “I did it then, and I would do it again tomorrow.”
But even if Trump were to be elected president once more, Rice may not have the opportunity to “do it again:” a recent Trafalgar Group poll shows Fry leading the incumbent Rice by more than 17 points.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan recently campaigned with Rice in South Carolina, telling a group of supporters that most other Republicans did not have the “guts” to vote to impeach Trump like Rice did.
“There were a lot of people who wanted to vote like Tom but who just did not have the guts to do it,” Ryan told the group, the Myrtle Beach Sun News reported. “There are a lot of people who say they’re going to vote their conscience, they’re going to vote for the Constitution, they’re going to vote for their convictions but when it gets hard to do that they don’t do it. “
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