As the impeachment inquiry against him heats up, President Trump appears to have gotten perhaps his most dramatic defense yet from former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley: According to her, impeachment proceedings are akin to “the death penalty for a public official” and Trump simply doesn’t deserve the death penalty.
In excerpts from an interview with CBS News released late Friday, Haley scoffed at the idea that Trump would actually be removed from office.
“You're going to impeach a president for asking for a favor that didn't happen and giving money and it wasn't withheld?” Haley told CBS' Norah O'Donnell. “I don't know what you would impeach him on.”
The former ambassador, who resigned in late 2018, went on to liken impeachment proceedings to capital punishment.
“And look, Norah, impeachment is like the death penalty for a public official. When you look at the transcript, there's nothing in that transcript that warrants the death penalty for the president,” she said, referring to a transcript of the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that sparked the impeachment inquiry.
O'Donnell pushed back, noting that the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, Alexander Vindman—who listened in on the call—had testified to Congress that the rough transcript of the call released by the White House was not complete.
“There's still things that are missing from it,” O'Donnell said.
“The Ukrainians never did the investigation, and the president released the funds,” Haley replied. “I mean, when you look at those, there's just nothing impeachable there.”
“I think the biggest thing that bothers me is the American people should decide this,” Haley added, apparently taking issue with Congress' constitutional right to impeach a president if deemed appropriate. “Why do we have a bunch of people in Congress making this decision?”
The first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry are slated to begin next week—with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and two top diplomats, William Taylor and George Kent, expected to testify. The inquiry was sparked by a whistleblower complaint about the July 25 call. The whistleblower raised concerns about Trump leveraging military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating widely debunked corruption allegations against his potential political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, along with alleged 2016 election interference by Ukrainians.