Haley Responds to $83 Million Trump Verdict: “I Absolutely Trust the Jury”

“I think that they made their decision based on the evidence.”

Matt Rourke/AP

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After appearing to shrug off E. Jean Carroll’s sexual abuse and defamation lawsuits against Donald Trump, Nikki Haley is now suddenly paying attention.

On Sunday, the former South Carolina governor said that she “absolutely” trusted the jury’s decision last week to order Trump to pay $83.3 million for defaming Carroll after Carroll accused Trump of having raped her in 1996. Last year, a jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse but not for rape under New York state law. The federal judge hearing the case, however, has gone to great lengths to make clear the gravity of that verdict, writing:

The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was “raped” within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump “raped” her as many people commonly understand the word “rape.” Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.

“I absolutely trust the jury and I think that they made their decision based on the evidence,” Haley told NBC News’ Kristen Welker on Sunday, in response to the recent $83 million defamation verdict. However, Haley declined to say that the verdict should disqualify Trump from being her party’s presidential nominee, insisting that voters would eventually reject his ambitions to return to the White House.

The remarks—which follow a Friday tweet in which Haley said America “could do better” than nominating a man in constant legal peril—come as she sharpens her attacks against Trump. Those jabs include Haley questioning Trump’s mental competency and calling him “totally unhinged” during a recent appearance on Fox News.

Tepid though they may be, Haley’s comments about the latest Carroll verdict mark a key escalation in her anti-Trump rhetoric. That’s all but certain to infuriate the former president, as he publicly mocks her with racist attacks in a push to get her to quit the race.

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