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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Martin Pengelly in Washington

‘I don’t know’: Nikki Haley unsure Trump would follow constitution

Nikki Haley: ‘I don’t think that there should ever be a president that has total immunity to do whatever they want to do.’
Nikki Haley: ‘I don’t think that there should ever be a president that has total immunity to do whatever they want to do.’ Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Asked if she thought Donald Trump would follow the US constitution if he is elected for a second term as president, Nikki Haley said: “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know. I don’t – I don’t know,” the former South Carolina governor, Trump’s last opponent for the Republican presidential nomination, told NBC’s Meet the Press in an interview to be broadcast in full on Sunday.

“I mean … you always want to think someone will, but I don’t know.”

Trump has won every primary vote and heads into Super Tuesday on 5 March, when multiple states hold nominating contests, on the brink of securing the nomination.

Refusing to drop out, Haley has attacked Trump in steadily harsher terms. But though she has kept the twice-impeached former president from utterly dominating at the polls, she has not come close to winning a state.

Trump’s campaign rhetoric has been characteristically dark, including a wish to be a “dictator” on day one in office and promises to take “ultimate and absolute revenge” on his enemies. He has mused about “vindication” and about “terminating” the constitution.

Haley said: “You know, when you … go and you talk about revenge – when you go and you talk about, you know, vindication [and] when you go and you talk about – what does that mean? Like, I don’t know what that means, and only he can answer for that.

“What I can answer for is, I don’t think there should ever be a president that’s above the law. I don’t think that there should ever be a president that has total immunity to do whatever they want to do.”

The US supreme court this week stunned many observers when it said it would hear oral arguments over Trump’s claim, in his federal election subversion case, that he has absolute immunity for acts committed in office.

A federal appeals court roundly rejected the argument but it will be presented to a rightwing-dominated supreme court to which Trump appointed three justices in four years. Scheduling concerns mean any trial is likely to be close to or after the November election.

Facing 91 criminal charges – for election subversion (four federal, 13 state), retention of classified information (40) and hush-money payments (34), Trump has sought to delay each case, ultimately to be able to have them dismissed if he is re-elected.

Haley, who served the former president as ambassador to the United Nations, has said Trump cannot win a general election but also refused to rule out endorsing him and said she will not support Joe Biden.

Trump has roundly mocked Haley and demanded she drop out.

As president, Haley told NBC, “I think that we need to have someone that our kids can look up to, that they can be proud of.”

Trump’s hush-money trial – concerning payments to an adult film star who claimed an extramarital affair – will begin in New York at the end of March.

Haley added: “I think we need to have a country of law and order, a country of freedom, and a country that goes back to respecting the value of a taxpayer dollar, and we don’t have any of that right now.”

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