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Haley says 'no way' voters would back Trump if he is convicted, though she's said she would

She called the former president "unhinged" and "diminished."

February 14, 2024, 12:11 PM

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was pressed in a new interview about her different positions on rival Donald Trump's viability in the 2024 general election if he is convicted of one of the 91 criminal charges he faces, all of which he denies.

"There is no way that the American people are going to vote for a convicted criminal," Haley said in an interview with NBC News' Craig Melvin that aired Wednesday morning.

"But you said you would! But you said you would," an incredulous Melvin responded, referring to the moment during the first GOP primary debate when Haley affirmed her support for Trump if he wins the nomination and is convicted.

"No, that is not the question," Haley told him. "Every Republican nominee ... signed a pledge before they could even get on the debate stage that said if that we were not the nominee, would we support the nominee? And I said yes, and I stand by that."

Melvin had asked how that view fits in with Haley's more recent criticism that Trump is "not qualified" to be commander in chief because of his sarcastic comments questioning her husband's absence from her campaign while he is serving overseas with the Army National Guard.

"I'm the first one to say I voted for him twice. I was proud to serve America in his administration," said Haley, who was one of Trump's U.N. ambassadors.

But, she continued, "I have called him out multiple times, which is why he's upset because he thinks I'm disloyal. I'm not loyal to anyone. I don't do that."

She also told Melvin, "I have said any of [the other GOP candidates] would be better than Joe Biden."

Haley was previously pressed by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on her support for Trump if there is a potential conviction and said then, "I don't even think it's going to get to the point that Donald Trump becomes president. I think that I'm going to be the nominee."

She told Stephanopoulos in August that the alternative to voting for Trump would be unacceptable: "A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for [Vice President] Kamala Harris."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump, right, speaks with Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations, during a meeting in the Oval Office, Oct. 9, 2018.
President Donald Trump, right, speaks with Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations, during a meeting in the Oval Office, Oct. 9, 2018.
Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In Monday's interview, she took a harsher tone on Trump. While she repeated her rebuke of his comments about her husband -- calling it an affront to "all members of the military" -- she suggested that his past remarks disparaging veterans and Gold Star families, whose relatives died while serving in the military, didn't seem to be as sincere.

"Everybody thought, 'Oh, did he have a slip? What did that mean?'" she said.

She continued: "The problem now is he is not the same person he was in 2016. He is unhinged. He is more diminished than he then he was." (Trump has fired back, calling Haley a "bird brain.")

More recently, in 2020, Haley defended Trump from reporting that he had allegedly called slain service members "suckers," which he vigorously denied.

"All of us who worked with [Trump] witnessed the tremendous amount of love and respect he has for our military," Haley posted on X, formerly Twitter, in September 2020.

In her interview with Melvin, Haley rejected the premise that her primary message against Trump isn't gaining traction because she has lost in the few early voting states so far.

"I think my message has broken through," she said. "Not only are we getting Republicans, we're getting independents, we're getting Reagan Democrats -- the people who want the anger to stop, the people who want the division to stop and the people who want us to stop having 80-year-old candidates."

Asked whether she was hurting Trump by staying in the race, Haley said that was "ridiculous."

"I'm the one that saves the Republican Party," she said, touting some polls that show her beating Biden in a hypothetical general election matchup.

Of her chances moving forward, Haley told Melvin not to "discount" her.

"Don't discount that I defeated a dozen fellas," she said of the many other GOP primary candidates who have since left the race. "Don't discount me now," she said.

And if she would potentially serve in a Trump administration, she did not directly rule it out but said, "I don't want anything. I don't want vice president. I don't want anything."