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Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during a town hall campaign event, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Ankeny, Iowa.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley during a town hall campaign event in Ankeny, Iowa, on Wednesday.Charlie Neibergall / AP

Haley in Iowa: Jan. 6 'a terrible day,' lawbreakers 'should pay the price'

The former Trump Cabinet official cut against Trump's recent remarks in New Hampshire, when he called Jan. 6 "a beautiful day."


Former U.S. ambassador the United Nations Nikki Haley Wednesday called Jan. 6, 2021 “a terrible day” and said any person who broke the law at the U.S. Capitol that day “should pay the price.”

“It was not a beautiful day, it was a terrible day, and we don’t ever want that to happen again,” Haley said at a town hall-style event in Ankeny, Iowa, when asked by a voter how she could ensure a “fair and speedy” trial for those charged over their alleged actions on Jan. 6. “I don’t know enough about each individual [rioter] but that’s my rule: If you break the law, you pay the price. And so I think that’s the way we need to look at it.”

The new comments put Haley at odds with former President Donald Trump, her one-time boss and the current frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. Trump has downplayed the events of the Capitol riot and said he’d pardon many of the people found guilty for illegal activities that day.

At a recent CNN town hall, where he made the "beautiful day" comment Haley referenced in Iowa, Trump drew cheers from the audience for saying he was inclined to pardon a “large portion” of rioters if he were re-elected.

More than 600 people involved in the attack on the Capitol have been convicted of crimes, and more than 480 have been sentenced.

For Haley, also a former South Carolina governor, the day has proven a thorny issue— and one that she’s commented on several times, in several different ways since the event.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Haley said the former president’s “actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.” She told Politico in January 2021 “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 mere weeks later, Haley seemed to soften (although she’s argued these comments are not contradictory). Haley said she opposed impeaching Trump over his role in Jan. 6 and explained away his post-2020 election actions as simply “not his finest.”

Months later, Haley declared “there was fraud in the election” but said those votes couldn’t have swayed the vote, while also saying “we need [Trump] in the Republican Party.”