As Donald Trump faces his second impeachment for inciting a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, his former allies are one by one coming forward to distance themselves from him. Senator Mitch McConnell said that the mob was “fed lies” and “provoked” by the former president; Mike Pence is also reportedly done with Trump, although he hasn’t publicly condemned him. Senator Lindsey Graham announced that “enough is enough,” (Only days later, he seemed to forget he said this.) The latest to denounce Trump is Nikki Haley, his friend and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
“We need to acknowledge he let us down,” Haley told Politico in an article published on 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.” But, just like Graham’s empty assertions and Pence’s very bare minimum decision to ultimately support the idea of democracy, these comments mean nothing from someone who spent years supporting, abetting, and defending Trump — that is, defending Trump right until her relationship with him no longer benefits her.
In the interview, Haley criticized Trump’s decision to scapegoat Pence for refusing to try to overturn the election results. Trump’s comments led some of the January 6 rioters to directly target and threaten the former Vice President as they stormed the Capitol. As the building was under siege, Trump tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” According to video footage unveiled this week, Trump knew that Pence’s life was in danger when he wrote the tweet.
“When I tell you I'm angry, it's an understatement,” Haley said. “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.”
It’s been over two years since Haley stepped down from her ambassador position, but unlike some of her former colleagues, she left on positive terms with Trump. She told Politico that she considered him a friend. (“Friend is a loose term,” she said, when asked if she still sees him as one.) Shortly before resigning, she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that she sometimes disagrees with the Trump Administration but “enthusiastically” supports “most of its decisions and the direction it is taking the country.”
Haley didn’t directly validate Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud, but days after the election, she thanked him for his leadership on Twitter. “He and the American people deserve transparency and fairness as the votes are counted,” she wrote. “The law must be followed. We have to keep the faith that the truth will prevail.”
Since then, Haley has taken a lukewarm approach to Trump’s conspiracy theory about the “stolen” election. After the riot, she said that he was “badly wrong with his words” and “deeply disappointing,” but maintained that under his leadership, America made “some truly extraordinary gains.” But even today, she still refuses to outright acknowledge Trump’s manipulation, insisting that Trump wasn’t deceiving the American public and that he “genuinely, to his core, he believes he was wronged,” even though there is still no evidence of voter fraud.
But let's be clear about something here: it isn’t brave or commendable to come forward and finally criticize Trump’s legacy now that he has been impeached twice, lost all of his power, and lost mass support. But Haley’s words are tactical: many believe she might be positioning herself for a presidential run in 2024, and this wouldn’t be the first time she’s changed her mind about Trump for her own agenda.
Haley said that she was “deeply disturbed by what’s happened to” Trump, as if Trump hasn’t been a violently dangerous leader for years, even before he took office. His rhetoric, political positions, and incendiary social media posts have galvanized and validated countless white supremacists, terrorists, and hate groups over the years, and caused irreparable damage to marginalized Americans and America itself. “What’s happened” to Trump is that he finally lost power.
“Never did I think he would spiral out like this,” Haley said. “I don’t feel like I know who he is anymore.” But that’s the thing: she knows exactly who it is. And like Graham, Pence, and the rest of Trump’s most powerful and vocal supporters, she’s known it all along.