Trump Insinuates Haley’s Husband Deployed to Africa to Escape Her

Former President Donald J. Trump continued his aggressive attacks on Nikki Haley on Saturday, insinuating at a rally in South Carolina that her husband, a member of the National Guard, had gone on deployment to escape him.

“What happened to her husband?” Where is he?” Mr. Trump told a crowd in Conway, South Carolina: “He's gone.”

He then paused, before adding suggestively: “He knew. They had.”

Mr. Trump's comments, made in Ms. Haley's home state two weeks before the Republican primary, are a sharp turn in an escalating attack on her as he seeks to eliminate her from the race. the Republican primary. Although he has for weeks criticized Ms. Haley's political views and made vague attacks claiming she lacked presidential temperament, he has refrained from making specific personal smears.

Later in his speech in South Carolina, Mr. Trump — who for months called Ms. Haley “bird brain” without offering an explanation — called her “brain dead” while criticizing her position in national polls.

Ms. Haley's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but she posted a comment on which referred to the absence of her husband, Michael, from the campaign trail.

“Michael is deployed in service to our country, something you know nothing about. Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander in chief,” she wrote.

Ms. Haley's husband is currently on a year-long voluntary deployment to Africa that began last June. He is stationed at Camp Lemonnier, a large military base in Djibouti. Mr. Trump's comments follow growing attention to the topic from right-wing media figures who support the former president.

Although he is currently overseas, Mr. Haley is a regular feature in Ms. Haley's messages in her nomination bid. In her campaign speech, she describes him as one of the reasons she ran, often describing her struggles after returning from a war zone and suggesting that his work informed her views on politics foreign and immigration.

“The other candidates are sitting there and saying I'm a warmonger,” she said last year at a community center in Treynor, Iowa, where a restored U.S. Army helicopter hangs in tribute to the 114th Aviation Company in Vinh Long, South Vietnam. “Are you kidding? My husband is in the military. The last thing I want him to do is go fight. This is about preventing war. We should always be looking to prevent war.

In interviews with voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Mr. Haley often emerged organically as a reason for their support. Wives and mothers of military spouses or children tend to have the difficult experience of worrying about their loved ones and rarely seeing them. Retired military officers see her as someone who could better understand their plight.

Ms. Haley and Mr. Trump share, to some extent, the absence of their spouses on the campaign trail. Melania Trump, the former first lady, has not joined Mr. Trump at events, nor been by his side during his court appearances.

Mr. Trump's attacks on Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, come as his campaign has for weeks pursued a strategy to humiliate her in her home state.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump said once again that he had appointed her ambassador to the United Nations only to pave the way for his successor, Governor Henry McMaster, who endorsed Mr. Trump shortly after the start of his 2024 campaign.

Ms. Haley has also stepped up her criticism of Mr. Trump, especially as his path to the Republican nomination has narrowed and she has become his only major competitor. Recently, she attacked Mr. Trump in light of the special counsel's report questioning President Biden's mental acuity regarding his handling of classified documents.

At campaign stops in South Carolina on Saturday, she doubled down on urgent calls for Republicans not to overlook Mr. Trump's age and mental problems, warning without evidence that Democrats appeared to be seeking to replace Mr. .Biden and that Republicans should “wake up”. ,” Also.

In Newberry, South Carolina, his campaign staff handed out mock mental skills worksheets with questions that suggested Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden would not answer. Ms Haley told reporters she had not taken the test but would be happy to do so.

The Haley campaign also funded the purchase of a mobile billboard to troll the former president in the Myrtle Beach area, including near his event in Conway.

Mr. Trump has also called for cognitive testing for presidential candidates, part of his strategy to attack Mr. Biden's mental acuity for months.

On Saturday, he turned Ms. Haley's attack on her. “I don’t think Nikki would pass the test,” he said. “I really don’t.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.

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