First on ABC: Nikki Haley opens up about Trump, Israel and more

ABC News

Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley sat down with ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis in a network interview in which she discussed a wide range of topics including former President Donald Trump, the Israel-Hamas war, abortion and her life before stepping into the public eye.

Haley sat down with Davis in Sioux Center, Iowa, before she continued her swing around the state just days after the fourth Republican primary debate.

"I don't think he's the right person to be president."

During the fourth GOP debate, held Wednesday, candidates were asked whether Trump is fit to be president -- and while former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch Trump critic, said that he was not, the other three contenders offered less clear answers.

Haley did not answer during the debate, but when asked by Davis, she said it was not about fitness but rather that Trump is just not the right person to be president right now.

"It's not about fitness. I think he's fit to be president. It's 'Should he be president?' I don't think he should be president. I thought he was the right president at the right time," said Haley.

"We've got to look at the issues that we're dealing with, coming forward with new solutions, not focusing on negativity and baggage of the past. So it's not about being fit. It's just I don't think he's the right person to be president," she added.

Haley has insisted that Trump was the right president at the right time in remarks from the campaign trail, but recently, she has taken to calling for the country to move past him. However, at the first GOP debate, she signaled she would support the president as nominee even if he were convicted of a felony.

The former U.N ambassador was asked about her waffling on her loyalty towards Trump, something that the former president himself has called her out on, saying, "She criticizes me one minute, and 15 minutes later, she un-criticizes me."

"You know, anti-Trumpers don't think I hate him enough and pro-Trumpers don't think I love him enough. I call it like I see it," she said.

"I'm not going to be 100% with him. I'm not going to be 100% against him. It's not personal for me. This is about what's right for the country," she continued. "This is about how we're going to lead. This is about the direction we should go. It's not about the personal thoughts of an individual. It's about the fact that we have a country to save."

"Israel does not want Gaza"

Since Hamas' Oct. 7 surprise terror attack on Israel, Haley has called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "finish" Hamas and has largely pushed aside concerns about the humanitarian crisis playing out in Gaza.

While she talked about making a distinction in combat between "civilians versus terrorist" at the November GOP debate, she has repeatedly dismissed the idea of a cease-fire repeatedly, including that evening.

"The best way to save people in Gaza is to eliminate Hamas because they should not live under that," Haley said at the debate. "If you do a cease-fire, people die, because we've done this before and what Hamas did before, they killed Israeli soldiers and they took more Israeli soldiers hostage. That's what would happen."

Davis asked Haley who she believed should control Gaza.

"I think Israel, Israel does not want Gaza, but they don't want terrorists living in Gaza. So I think it needs to be a situation where the Israeli border is safe and protected and Gaza is no longer a bed for terrorists to act. And so I think we have to figure out how this is going to work," she said.

"I don't think it's something that Israel wants. I do think that it's a place that should be free and open and safe, but not with terrorist activity. So Israel is going to have to be involved in that. You can't go through something like Oct. 7 and chance that happening to your people again because Hamas has already said that they're going back. They're going to do it again," she added.

"A personal issue": Haley discusses abortion

On the trail, Haley has tried to walk a fine line on abortion, dodging support for any specific federal ban and trying to strike a "humanizing" tone in her response. She often discusses a college roommate she says was raped and her own struggles with having children.

But she has also said she would sign "anything that would pass" the Senate, always adding the caveat that it would be unlikely any ban would pass under the current filibuster rules.

At the third Republican debate in Miami, Haley sidestepped directly answering questions about supporting Sen. Tim Scott's 15-week federal ban using that very tactic.

"When it comes to the federal law, which is what's being debated here, be honest: It's going to take 60 Senate votes, a majority of the House and a president to sign it," Haley said. "So no Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban these state laws."

When referring to the case of Kate Cox, a 31-year-old Texas mother who had to go before a judge saying that she needed to get an abortion in order to save her uterus and preserve her chance to have healthy children in the future, Davis asked Haley how a Haley administration would handle the case. Haley responded that abortion is a personal issue.

"I don't know the details of the case that you're referring to. What I can tell you is I don't think that this issue needed to be in the hands of unelected justices. It needs to be in the hands of the people because it's a personal issue for every woman and man," said Haley.

"We're watching states make these decisions. Some states are going more pro-life. I welcome that. Some states are going more on the choice side. I wish that wasn't the case, but the people decide," she said.

"Uncalled for": Haley's daughter speaks on Ramaswamy TikTok comment

Haley, who was later joined by her daughter Rena during the interview, has said on the campaign trail that she would ban TikTok and has quibbled with some of her Republican competitors over the topic.

Most notably, Haley sparred with fellow candidate Vivek Ramaswamy after he brought up Haley's daughter previously having a TikTok account, which she has since deactivated.

"How do you get TikTok banned if you use it?" was the question posed to Ramaswamy, who himself has a TikTok account.

"I want to laugh at what Nikki Haley said. Her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So you might want to take care of your family first," Ramaswamy started, getting booed by some audience members.

Nikki Haley quickly told Ramaswamy to "Leave my daughter out of your voice" before calling him "scum."

Haley's daughter Rena told Davis that she felt Ramaswamy mentioning her use of TikTok was unnecessary and uncalled for.

"I mean, I felt like it was unnecessary," she said. "I feel like it's, people know not to bring kids into a situation. And so I felt like it was kind of uncalled for."

Sunday, December 10, 2023 at 2:52PM by Abby Cruz, Nicholas Kerr, Jon Schlosberg, Lindsey Griswold, Justin Weaver, and Tommy Brooksbank Permalink