“You’re the only woman in this race. How do you feel about your party’s front-runner being held liable for sexual abuse?” CNN’s Dana Bash asked Ms Haley.
“First of all, I haven’t paid attention to his cases, and I’m not a lawyer,” she responded. “All I know is that he’s innocent until proven guilty, and when he’s proven guilty, and he’s sitting in a courtroom — that’s exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve got investigations on Trump and Biden.”
Bash pushed her on the issue, noting that many Republicans dismiss Ms Carroll's case as a "witch hunt."
“Some of the cases have been political.… Look, if he’s found guilty then he needs to pay the price, he needs to do what he’s supposed to,” Ms Haley said. “Every one of these cases, they need to be heard out, he needs to defend himself. If he’s found guilty, he’s gonna pay the price. If he’s not found guilty, then we move forward. What I will tell you is that I’m focused on the economy, the border, and education, and getting our country back on track.”
She then suggested that Mr Trump's criminal cases were a "distraction" from more pressing national issues.
“If he’s sitting in a courtroom, that goes back to what I’m saying,” Ms Haley said. “We can’t continue to be distracted. We can’t continue to be in chaos. We have a country to save.”
DANA BASH: How do you feel about your party's frontrunner being found liable for sexual abuse?
NIKKI HALEY: First of all, I haven't paid attention to his cases. All I know is he's innocent until proven guilty. You have investigations on Trump and Biden. pic.twitter.com/cqlX6QITZ9
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 16, 2024
That comment falls in line with her recent campaign advertising, which suggests Democrats want Mr Trump to win the Republican nomination so they can keep him tied up in court. The underlying message is that Ms Haley is a better candidate to support because their alleged tactic will not work if she is the nominee.
Mr Trump has already been found liable for both sexually abusing Ms Carroll, and for defaming her. The current trial will determine the former president's penalty for defaming her again.
Ms Carroll accused Mr Trump of raping her in the dressing room of a retailer in the 1990s. Mr Trump denied knowing her, and called her a liar who was using the allegations to help her sell books. She claimed he had damaged her reputation, and sued him for defamation.
A jury found Mr Trump liable both for sexually abusing Ms Carroll and then defaming her. She was awarded $5m. Mr Trump has continued to insist he does not know Ms Carroll.
Ms Carroll is seeking a minimum of $10m in the current damages phase of the trial.
Mr Trump took to Truth Social to express his frustration over the case, even though he has already lost one defamation case to Ms Carroll.
“The only right, honest, and lawful thing that Clinton-appointed Judge Lewis Kaplan, who has so far been unable to see clearly because of his absolute hatred of Donald J. Trump (ME!), can do is to end this unAmerican injustice being done to a President of the United States, who was wrongfully accused by a woman he never met, saw, or touched (a photo line does not count!), and knows absolutely nothing about,” Mr Trump wrote.