Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley directly criticized former President Donald Trump for his involvement stoking the US Capitol riot in a new interview, a notable condemnation from someone who is widely viewed as harboring presidential hopes in a party that is still in thrall to Trump.
"We need to acknowledge he let us down," she told Politico magazine in an interview published Friday. "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."
Haley has often attempted to walk a fine line between allying herself with Trump -- who remains a hugely popular figure within the party -- while distancing herself enough to appeal to his Republican and moderate critics. She notably left his administration in 2018 on good terms with Trump, a contrast to many other officials who have publicly fallen out with their former boss.
In the Politico piece, Haley expressed anger over Trump's treatment of former Vice President Mike Pence on January 6 and said she hasn't spoken with Trump since then. Trump attacked Pence on Twitter that day for doing his duty of presiding over Congress' counting of the Electoral College votes, as the mob of supporters broke into the Capitol hoping to stop the certification, some of whom chanted death threats against Pence.
"When I tell you I'm angry, it's an understatement," Haley told Politico. "Mike has been nothing but loyal to that man. He's been nothing but a good friend of that man. ... I am so disappointed in the fact that [despite] the loyalty and friendship he had with Mike Pence, that he would do that to him. Like, I'm disgusted by it."
She did, however, say that she believes "impeachment is a waste of time." A majority of Senate Republicans have signaled that they will vote to acquit Trump, and removal from office requires a two-thirds vote in the chamber.
Asked how Trump should then be held accountable, Haley replied, "I think he's going to find himself further and further isolated."
"I think his business is suffering at this point. I think he's lost any sort of political viability he was going to have. I think he's lost his social media, which meant the world to him," she continued. "I mean, I think he's lost the things that really could have kept him moving."
The Senate could also consider a vote of whether to bar Trump from serving in public office, preventing him from running for reelection in 2024. Haley, however, predicted that Trump won't run for federal office again and that the former President will not have a future in the Republican Party.
"I don't think he's going to be in the picture," she said. "I don't think he can. He's fallen so far."
She acknowledged that "the love" Republicans have for Trump is "still very strong" and won't "fall to the wayside."
She continued, "Nor do I think the Republican Party is going to go back to the way it was before Donald Trump. I don't think it should. I think what we need to do is 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."
Although Haley left the Trump administration on good terms with Trump, she has occasionally spoken out about his rhetoric, even while supporting many of his policies. The day after January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, Haley told members of the Republican National Committee in a closed-door speech that the President's actions after the election "will be judged harshly by history."
In the Politico piece published Friday, Haley said in January she's "deeply disturbed" by what's happened to Trump since the election, arguing "the person that I worked with is not the person that I have watched since the election."
"Never did I think he would spiral out like this. ... I don't feel like I know who he is anymore," she claimed.
But Trump had pushed misleading and false claims about mail in voting early and throughout the 2020 campaign, as states moved to expand vote by mail and absentee ballot access due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Politico reported that Haley had called Trump in December after his election loss, but had not attempted to tell Trump that the election was not rigged as he falsely claimed.
"I understand the president. I understand that genuinely, to his core, he believes he was wronged," Haley told the magazine.
Asked if she thought it was dangerous that Trump was spreading misinformation about the election, Haley replied, "He believes it" and compared it to: "That would be like you saying that grass is blue and you genuinely believing it. Is it irresponsible that you're colorblind and you truly believe that?"