The following is a transcript of an interview with former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is running for president, which will air on “Face the Nation” on July 30, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we want to go now to Des Moines, Iowa, where former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, is campaigning. Good morning to you.
NIKKI HALEY: Hi, Margaret. It’s great to be with you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There’s so much to get to with you. I want to start on some of the news of this week and your vision. In a Haley administration, will you enforce all laws concerning classified information?
NIKKI HALEY: Absolutely. You know, when I was at the United Nations, there were really strict rules on how you handled classified information. You couldn’t even leave the room and leave something sitting on your desk. I mean, they gave you real strict instructions. And I think what we’ve seen is, there need to be instructions as a President leaves as well. As anyone leaves their post, I think we need to have someone go and reinforce what you can and can’t do, and make sure that they do those inspections. I don’t think that’s been happening with presidents in the past. And I think we need to start doing that going forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we learned this week in that superseding indictment that as a private citizen, Mr. Trump on two occasions, one of them recorded on tape, showed classified documents related to war plans for Iran to others. In July 2021, he showed a plan of attack prepared for him by a senior military official. On another date, he showed a member of his political action committee a classified map for a military operation. These are federal crimes. Should Trump face prosecution?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I’ve said before that if these- if these accusations are true, it’s incredibly dangerous to our national security. But again, this is coming down from a Department of Justice that, frankly, the American people don’t trust. And so I think we have to wait and see what the evidence comes down as, he’s got to defend himself. And we’ll wait and see as that comes together.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You don’t believe this indictment, the recordings, and the evidence as collected by law enforcement?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I think we need to see it. You know, I think we’ve heard about it. I think that we know that there’s something out there. But look, everybody’s innocent until they’re proven guilty. And like I said, if this is true, it’s incredibly dangerous to our national security. And I think that will play out, but I think that we have to go and see what all the facts are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Two other defendants named in this indictment, Carlos De Oliveira and Trump bodyman Walt Nauta, were allegedly instructed to delete security camera footage. And the details in this indictment are very specific. It says just a day after Trump received the subpoena requesting the video, they went to the basement and looked at the security cameras. Two days later, De Oliveira took aside a fourth employee, went through a basement tunnel to a small room, and asked about how many days the server retained footage from those surveillance cameras. He then told another employee, the boss wanted the server deleted. Does that sound kosher to you?
NIKKI HALEY: No, I mean, none of that sounds good. The same way it didn’t sound good when Hillary erased her emails. I mean, what we’re looking at Margaret is, we’ve had this going on for years where people are not held accountable. And what we want to say is there shouldn’t be a double standard, it doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter if you’re Hillary, or if you’re Trump, you shouldn’t be erasing anything unless you have something to hide. But everybody needs to be treated the same way. And that’s what the American people are frustrated about. It’s not that they don’t want people held accountable. They just want everyone to be treated fairly. And right now, they don’t trust the Department of Justice. They don’t trust the intelligence agencies. I think they now have to go and prove that this is actually what took place. And I think Trump now has to defend himself. But let’s not forget that we have watched things happen with Biden and Hillary in the past. And there are just as many questions there than there are answers. And what we’re saying is, treat them all the same.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay
NIKKI HALEY: We need to know exactly what happened with all of them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you trust these career prosecutors who have been working on this case? Do you trust the Department of Justice?
NIKKI HALEY: I don’t know that the American people do trust the Department of Justice.
MARGAET BRENNAN: Do you?
NIKKI HALEY: I think it’s upon them to show us that we can prove them. Because I think right now, we feel like there have been a lot of cover ups. And that’s not what we want to see.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you trust the Department of Justice yourself?
NIKKI HALEY: Right now, if I become president, the first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to make sure we clean up any sort- we’ll clean it up from the top and all of senior management. They have weaponized and put politics in the Department of Justice over years. That needs to end, that’s not the role of the Department of Justice. You know, whether it’s the Hunter Biden, where we now have more questions, and we have answers on what happened with foreign actors and what was paid and why it was paid. Or whether it’s the fact with Trump and whether those things are actually the case and they had that information. Why did it take so long for them to come out about, you know, Hunter’s laptop, and why are they continuing to move so aggressively on Trump? We want fairness. The American people want transparency, throw it all out there and let us decide. Don’t hide certain things, don’t push out certain things. Let’s make it transparent. Transparency cures all things. That’s what people want from the Department of Justice. That’s what they want from the intelligence agencies. They don’t want to have favoritism with anybody.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So you’ve said in the past, though, you would be inclined to pardon Donald Trump. That assumes he’ll be convicted, that assumes he had something to hide here. Has your position changed? Would you still pardon him?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I’ve- what I’ve said is if he is found guilty, that is certainly showing that it was dangerous to our national security, but I’ll take you back to Nixon and Ford. I mean, I think that one of the things we have to look at is not what’s in the best interest of, you know, the president, but what’s in the best interest of the country. We have to move forward. We’ve got to quit living in the past, and I don’t want there to be all of this division over the fact that we have a president serving years in jail over a documents trial. I want all of this to go away. It’s why we have to have a new generational leader. It’s why we need to move forward. We can’t keep living with indictments and court cases and vengeance of the past. We’ve got to start going forward. American people are not talking about these indictments. What they want to know is how we’re going to deal with the debt and the reckless spending by Republicans and Democrats, how we’re going to have transparency in our kids’ schools and catch them back up again, how we’re going to fix a lawless border, and how we’re going to make sure that we actually start dealing with national security because America looks so weak right now. Those are the things I hear about in town halls. People are frustrated with the indictments, they’re frustrated with the weaponization. They want to know how government’s going to work for them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. Well, on the issue of national security, that’s exactly why I asked you about these very specific examples that endanger national security that were named in the indictment, allegedly. You have said in the past that you would support Donald Trump if he’s the- wins the nomination, but he can’t win a general election. Do you think then that he should drop out?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I think that he is going to be, you know, instead of working on all those issues that Americans want to talk about, what we don’t need to be talking about is what Trump has to do to defend himself and so I don’t think it’s constructive. I don’t think, you know, while I think he was the right president at the right time, you know, earlier and why I think his policies were good, I don’t think he’s the right president at the right time going forward. I think we’ve got to move forward. Otherwise, we will have a general election that’s doing nothing but dealing with lawsuits. You know, you’ve got his first court case on the day of the Iowa caucuses. You’ve got another court case that’s going to be in May when probably a Republican candidate is going to already be decided. We can’t have a general election where we are handing it over to Kamala Harris because we’re dealing with indictments and court cases and legal issues of President Trump.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So it would help you get your message out and Republicans get their message out if he drops out. Is that what you’re saying?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, none of us want to be talking about indictments. I don’t even know if it’s the third, fourth, or fifth indictment right now, but what I can tell you is, it’s a distraction, and frankly, the media is talking about it nonstop, but when I do these town halls, the American public is not talking to me about that. They’re not asking me about indictments. They want to know what’s going to happen, how we’re going to go and change government for the better. They’re worried about the future for their kids and I think we owe it to them to be answering that, not how Trump’s going to defend himself.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On one of the big issues of the day, according to our latest CBS News poll, a majority of Americans think climate change needs to be addressed. Most say it has to be dealt with right now. Republicans are apart on that, almost half say it doesn’t need to be addressed. Do you think it does?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I think climate change is real. I think that we do have to focus on it. We all want an environment that has clean air, clean water to leave for our kids and our grandkids, but I think we need to be realistic with the American people. I mean, you know, if you really want to deal with the environment, why isn’t anyone seriously talking to China and India, who are our biggest polluters? If we want to deal with the environment, let’s focus on making sure we’re not–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — John Kerry was just in China and India.
NIKKI HALEY: And what did he come back with? Nothing. He came back with nothing. And China said we’ll deal with the environment on our own hands. That’s the problem is the Biden administration has been too nice to China on dealing with this. They’re a massive polluter, but let’s talk about what we want to do if we want to focus on energy. What we don’t want to do is go hat in hand to Saudi Arabia, or get dirty oil from Iran or Venezuela. What we do want to do is look at what does transitioning look like. You can’t do it tomorrow, but what you can do is transition and that’s where we say that let’s do an all-of-the-above energy approach. Yes, there can be solar. Yes, there can be wind, but you can’t do it tomorrow. That’s not realistic and we don’t want to be dependent on other countries for our energy needs. So, let’s be realistic about what it takes. Let’s go after India and China and have the rest of the world put pressure on them to say enough is enough. I saw when we pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the reason we pulled out was not because we didn’t want a clean environment. It’s because we had all of these regulations pushed down on American businesses, and on the American people and China’s role in the Paris Climate Agreement was, we will deal with it in 10 years. Well, as Kerry just found out, 10 years never comes for China.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the U.S. is also one of the biggest polluters in the world. So, what would you change here at home? What are you going to regulate to pull back on- go ahead.
NIKKI HALEY: Well, that’s just not true. I mean, I think if you look at China and India, we are nowhere near China and India. They get 60% of their energy from coal. If you look at what U.S. companies are doing, what we need to do is allow innovation to work. Let’s bring in the private sector. Let’s talk about what we can do to actually do this. When I was governor of South Carolina, when we recruited all those manufacturing companies, they all wanted to be green, not because I made them or regulated them to do it because they wanted to be to- good stewards of the community and we- we- we praised them for it, we continued to incentivize. That’s what we want to do is have a conversation with the private sector and say, what could we do? How could we do it? When you make businesses your partners in having the good- having a good environment, you find out they’re the biggest stewards of wanting to make things right, but don’t ignore China and India in this process, not when 60% of what they use is coal. That’s not the right way to look at it going forward. We need to start putting pressure on those that are really causing harm to our climate.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve said sanctions on China are not working. And that as President, you would push Congress to revoke permanent normal trade relations until the flow of fentanyl ends. Our two economies are incredibly intertwined. How do you hit China without having blowback here at home?
NIKKI HALEY: That’s the exact response that the Europeans would have told you about Russia and look at where that got them. That got them to where they’re right on the border of a Ukrainian Russian war. What we have to understand is a massive–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –China is the second most powerful economy in the world–
NIKKI HALEY: –And China is also our number one biggest national security threat, all you have to do is look at the infiltration they’re doing in our country. They have gone and bought 400,000 acres of U.S. soil near our military installations. They are spending millions of dollars in our universities to steal our research and to spread Chinese propaganda. They have police stations in our country. They bought the largest pork producer in the world, right here in Iowa. They have Chinese front companies lobbying our Congress on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. They have stolen $600 billion a year in intellectual property. And when it comes to our military, they’re doing nuclear–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –So are you going to put more tariffs on them?
NIKKI HALEY: –hold on, that’s not what I said. They’re doing nuclear, they’re doing artificial intelligence, they’re doing cyber. But Margaret, they have built up the largest naval fleet in the world, they have 350 ships, they’ll have 400 in two years. We won’t even have 350 in two decades. Instead, our military’s taking gender pronoun classes. We need to deal with China as the threat that they are. The way I would deal with it is number one, we wouldn’t allow them to buy U.S. soil, we would take the- the land that they bought back from them. We would go and say no more, are we selling any sort of sensitive technologies that allow them to build up their military and threaten the U.S. We would stop that. We would tell our universities you either take Chinese money or American money, but the days of taking both are over and we get that Chinese infiltration out. And when it comes to fentanyl, the number one cause of death for adults 18 to 49 Margaret, is fentanyl. And don’t think for a second China doesn’t know what they’re doing. So what I would do is say to China, we will end all normal trade relations with you when- until you stop killing Americans. We are losing too many. We lost more than the Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam wars combined. 70,000 Americans last year, it’s unacceptable. We need to be strong with China. They’re running all over us. We’re waiting to deal with China tomorrow while they’re dealing with America today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would kick out the Chinese manufacturers who have invested in the state of South Carolina?
NIKKI HALEY: What I would say to the Chinese manufacturers is I would say, ‘Look, we’re going to make sure we know exactly what you’re doing’. We only took less than 2%. But I wish- I wish the administration had told the governors what was going on, what we need to do is make sure there’s no sensitive technology being stolen. We need to make sure there’s no spying. We do whatever it takes, and let’s get those American companies out of China, and let’s start dealing with our allies. When we talk about India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, we don’t have to be getting medicines from China, we need to be focusing on protecting the American people. And that’s how you go and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to deal with China the way they deserve to be treated’.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have been speaking a fair amount about President Biden’s seventh grandchild who you’ve said he should acknowledge. On Friday, he did, in a statement saying, ‘It’s a personal matter, not a political one’. Do you accept that request for privacy, given that there is a four year old child involved?
NIKKI HALEY: Actually, when I was talking about the grandchildren, what I was saying is that we need to have term limits in Congress and we need to have mental competency tests for anyone over the age of 75. And I don’t say that to be disrespectful. I don’t care if you do it for 50 and older. What I’m saying is, these are people in DC that are making decisions on our national security. They’re deciding the future of our kids’ economy. We need to know they’re at the top of their game. When you go and look at Biden and you- and you ask him what country he was in the week before, and he can’t say it. When you go and ask him how many grandchildren he has and he doesn’t know. When you go and see him falling asleep with leaders. That’s concerning. And, and I know, when I was at the United Nations. Leaders watch the health- the health status of other leaders. They are watching Biden right now. You see what happened with McConnell, you see what happened with Feinstein. We have too many issues going on that we need to start making sure that we do this. And these mental competency tests are easy. It’s saying, ‘say four words that start with the same letter. What city were you born in? How many grandkids do you have?’ These are things that people should be able to answer.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so I want to follow up on that. But I think, are you saying that you believe the privacy of this child should be dealt with as a non-political matter?
NIKKI HALEY: I haven’t paid attention to what he said in terms of his interview. But of course, when it comes to family, we always want to keep that private, that’s fine. But when you go and you talk about family values, and you talk about all of that, it’s odd that he wouldn’t acknowledge one of his grandchildren.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If you’re president, I assume to get a lot of what you need done, you have to work with leadership. You have just criticized Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader who is 81 and had some issues in front of a camera this week where he seemed to to freeze a bit. Are you confident in his ability to lead because he says he’s gonna serve out his term?
NIKKI HALEY: I think Mitch McConnell did an amazing job when it comes to our judiciary. When we look at the judges, when we look at the Supreme Court, he’s been a great leader. But I do think that this is one- you know, we’ve got to stop electing people because they look good in the picture or they hold a baby well. We’ve got to stop electing people because we like them and they’ve been there a long time. That’s actually the problem. You need to have term limits, because we need new ideas, new solutions. We’ve got to have a new generation. I hit Republicans and Democrats. We are $32 trillion in debt. We’re having to borrow money just to make our interest payments. I would love to say Biden did that to us. But Republicans did that to us, too. And now they’ve opened up earmarks–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — So you’re not confident?
NIKKI HALEY: — And for the first time, Republicans in the- in the- Republicans in the 24 budget asked for $7.4 billion dollars in earmarks. Democrats asked for $2.8 billion, who are the big spenders there? And so I’m saying we need to know the value of a dollar. What I am saying about Mitch McConnell, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, all of them: know when to walk away, know when to walk away. We have huge issues that need new solutions. We need new generational leaders. We appreciate your service. We appreciate what you’ve done. But this is why we will fight for term limits. We’ve got to get it done in America,
MARGARET BRENNAN: Donald Trump is 77 years old, would he pass that mental acuity test?
NIKKI HALEY: I don’t know. I say everybody should take it. I’m willing to take I think everybody else should take it–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — You didn’t list his name when you listed all those older Washington lawmakers. Do you think he needs to–
NIKKI HALEY: — I just said we need a new- I just said we need a new generational leader. I mean, that goes- that goes for all of them. You can look across DC. They’re all that, of course, I’m talking about Trump. I’ve said that all throughout this campaign that it is time for us to have a new generation. We’ve lost- Republicans have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president. That’s nothing to be proud of, we should want to win the majority of Americans, we’ve got to start going with a new generation so that we can do that. We have to leave all of these older diplomats and Democrats- and Democrats and Republicans behind. And let’s start dealing with new solutions that the American people can feel like governments working for them again,
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I do want to ask you your thoughts on Governor Ron DeSantis, he signed that law changing curriculums in the state of Florida with new standards, as you know, a lot of scrutiny about how slavery would be taught. Do you think he has overstepped by attacking some of the Black Republicans in Congress who have said they personally take issue with what he is doing and the language that he is defending?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I haven’t read the actual curriculum that he proposed in Florida. But what I can say is it’s the 21st century. And I think we can all agree that there was no- there were no positives that came out of slavery. And I think everybody can and should agree on that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Has he overstepped?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I mean, I think he needs to go and talk with the- with the Republicans and Democrats that have issues with this. I mean, he just should come out and say no positives came out of slavery. I think that’s important to say. And I think that’s what these- these Republicans and Democrats have asked him to say. We’ll see what he does.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. Thank you for your time today. Ambassador Nikki Haley.