▶ Watch Video: E. Jean Carroll awarded $5 million in sex abuse, defamation case against Trump

The reaction among prominent Republicans to a jury in New York finding former President Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse range from disgust over the allegations to dismissal of its impact, with several of his GOP rivals for the 2024 presidential nomination declining to criticize him directly over the verdict.

A federal jury on Tuesday determined that Trump was liable for battery and defamation after a civil trial stemming from allegations he raped the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. The jury did not find Trump liable for rape, but did find that he sexually abused Carroll and defamed her when she came forward several years ago. 

After the verdict, Trump claimed that he didn’t know Carroll and that he was “silenced” from speaking publicly about the case, despite the fact that the court gave him multiple opportunities to speak at the civil trial and he declined to do so. At trial, the jury was shown a video of Trump’s deposition, in which he strongly denied Carroll’s accusations.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former district attorney and current candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, said during a town hall event in New Hampshire on Wednesday that he believes “the woman was a victim.” He further told CBS News’ Robert Costa on Wednesday that he believes Trump “has not treated women with the highest regard,” which he said “should be part of how we judge a future president.” 

“Over the course of my over 25 years of experience in the courtroom, I have seen firsthand how a cavalier and arrogant contempt for the rule of law can backfire,” Hutchinson said in a statement after the verdict was read Tuesday. “The jury verdict should be treated with seriousness and is another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump.”

Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and another potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, on Wednesday called Trump’s denials “ridiculous.” 

“His response to me was ridiculous, that he didn’t even know the woman,” Christie said on the radio program “The Brian Kilmeade Show” Wednesday morning. “I mean, you know, how many coincidences are we going to have here with Donald Trump, Brian? I mean, he must be the unluckiest S.O.B in the world. He just has random people who he has never met before, who are able to convince a jury that he sexually abused them. I mean, this guy. It is one person after another, one woman after another. The stories just continue to pile up. And I think we all know he’s not unlucky and that he engaged in this kind of conduct.”

Others suggested the verdict isn’t a focus for them or the American people, without weighing in on the allegations directly. Former vice president and potential 2024 candidate Mike Pence said he “really can’t comment on a judgment in a civil case.” 

“It’s just one more story focusing on my former running mate that I know is a great fascination to members of the national media, but I just don’t think it’s where the American people are focused,” Pence told NBC News

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who launched her Republican presidential campaign in February, echoed that sentiment, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt that questions about the verdict were “something for Trump to respond to.” 

“I think the focus has to be not to be distracted. That’s why we’ve got to leave the baggage and the negativity behind. We’ve got to focus on what people are talking about,” Haley said, referencing issues like inflation, education and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Still, others have come to Trump’s defense, claiming the criminal system is being weaponized for political reasons. 

“If the defendant weren’t named Donald Trump, would we be talking about this today, would there even be a lawsuit?” said entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, another Republican presidential candidate.

Ramaswamy questioned Carroll’s timeline of the events she alleged and said it “seems this is part of the establishment system’s anaphylactic immune response against its chief political virus, Donald Trump.”

Others have focused on how the verdict might harm Trump’s electability. GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who is not running for president, said the verdict contributes to a “cumulative effect” that might turn off voters. 

“People are gonna have to decide whether they want to deal with all the drama,” Thune told CBS News on Tuesday. 

Sen. John Cornyn, the senior Republican senator from Texas, said of Trump, “I don’t think he can get elected” because “you can’t win a general election with just your base.”

Others have said nothing so far. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is lagging Trump in 2024 polling, has not reacted to the jury’s decision, nor has likely presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. 

Scott MacFarlane, Fin Gomez and Olivia Rinaldi contributed to this report.