WASHINGTON — After remaining relatively reticent for two months regarding former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that his 2020 election loss was the result of voter fraud, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley sharply rebuked the president she once served.
In an interview published Friday, Haley said Republicans never should have allowed Trump to take them down the road that led to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“We need to acknowledge he let us down,” Haley told Politico less than a week after the attack. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
The former South Carolina governor, who is widely expected to run for president in 2024, also boldly predicted that Trump has no future in the GOP after the deadly riot in which Trump supporters tried to stop the count of Electoral College votes.
“He’s not going to run for federal office again,” Haley said. “I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture.”
She added, “I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far.”
Despite those harsh words for her former boss, Haley defended the president on Fox News less than two weeks after her condemnations in the Jan. 12 Politico interview.
Haley told host Laura Ingraham on Jan. 25 that while Trump’s reaction to his defeat was “not his finest,” he should not have been impeached for allegedly inciting the mob that attacked the Capitol.
“What happened on Jan. 6 was not great. Does he deserve to be impeached? Absolutely not. I don’t even think there’s a basis for impeachment,” she said. “They beat him up before he got into office. They’re beating him up after he leaves office. At some point, I mean, give the man a break.”
That assessment was in sharp contrast to her earlier statements to Politico. In that interview, she said shwas particularly outraged by Trump’s attacks on Vice President Mike Pence for not having the “courage” to use his role of presiding over the Jan. 6 vote count to block the certification of the result – an ability he did not have in his largely ceremonial role. Trump continued to attack Pence on Twitter even as the mob violently breached the Capitol amid calls to “hang Mike Pence.”
“When I tell you I’m angry, it’s an understatement,” Haley told Politico. “Mike has been nothing but loyal to that man.”
Her statements in that interview reflected some of the sharpest criticisms yet of Trump’s post-election behavior from a prominent Republican and a more stinging rebuke than her words to a gathering of the Republican National Committee the day after the riot at the Capitol.
“President Trump has not always chosen the right words. He was wrong with his words in Charlottesville, and I told him so at the time,” she said at the Jan. 7 RNC meeting, referring to Trump’s assertion there were “fine people, on both sides” of the 2017 clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters. She said Trump “was badly wrong with his words yesterday,” adding, “And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”
She acknowledged that Trump had irrevocably altered the Republican Party and said she hoped the GOP could “take the good that he built, leave the bad that he did, and get back to a place where we can be a good, valuable, effective party.”
Her rebukes of the former president after Jan. 6 contrast with the more permissive attitude she took toward Trump’s unfounded election fraud claims prior to the deadly riot.
When asked in December about Trump’s persistent election falsehoods, Haley defended Trump’s rhetoric on the grounds that the president truly believed he was the victim of a conspiracy to rob him of the White House, despite the lack of evidence to support his conviction.
“I understand the president. I understand that genuinely, to his core, he believes he was wronged,” Haley told Politico at the time. “This is not him making it up.”
When asked if she thought his effort to undermine the public’s faith in American democracy was dangerous, Haley smiled and replied, “He believes it.”
“At the time, I didn’t think that was dangerous,” Haley now concedes. “I didn’t think that there was anything to fear about him. There was nothing to fear about him when I worked for him. I mean, he may have been brash. He may have been blunt. But he was someone who cared about the country.”
But since Trump’s loss to now-President Joe Biden, Haley said, she has been “deeply disturbed by what’s happened to him.”
“I don’t feel like I know who he is anymore,” she said. “The person that I worked with is not the person that I have watched since the election.”