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South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace on Trump's trial and what it means for the election

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The first week of testimony in a New York criminal case against former President Donald Trump has drawn to a close. And last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments on a motion from a different criminal case - whether a former president is immune from prosecution for official acts. I spoke earlier with Congresswoman Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, about these developments. As you will hear in the following excerpt of our exchange, the interview got contentious. We will fact-check some of Mace's statements with NPR political correspondent Susan Davis after this interview.

Let's start with the Supreme Court case. What is your take? Do you agree that a president can't be prosecuted for official acts? And more importantly, are Trump's actions in question here official acts?

NANCY MACE: Well, first of all, I think we have to look at, one, what does the Constitution say about official acts? And then, two, what is the legal precedent here? There is a longstanding legal precedent in, for example, Nixon v. Fitzgerald that supports immunity for official acts, both criminal and also civil. The Constitution also appears to indicate that former presidents can't be criminally prosecuted for official acts without impeachment. From my perspective, presidential immunity for official acts - it is crucial to enable the president to fill their constitutional duties without fear of political reprisal, politically motivated prosecution, et cetera.

RASCOE: So I have to ask you, would you feel comfortable with President Biden - when the election happens, say he loses, and he feels like the election was rigged, would you feel comfortable with him taking the exact same actions that Trump took?

MACE: Well, this is...

RASCOE: And would they be official acts?

MACE: Any precedent should be applicable to any president, Republican or Democrat. Now, the other thing that, you know, I think is worthy since you brought it up, there were Democrats in 2016 that said the election was rigged. In fact, I remember Hillary Clinton has said it multiple times that the election was stolen, that she won the election. And you had people like Jamie Raskin voting to overturn the results of the election in 2016 when that election happened.

RASCOE: OK. Well, let's talk about the January 6 attack on the Capitol. You did say that Trump needed to be held accountable for his actions. I'll play something from an interview you gave to my colleague, Steve Inskeep, the day after the attempted insurrection.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MACE: These people, the American people, were lied to. His followers were lied to. Many millions of people believed that Congress could usurp the role of the electoral college, and singularly overturn the results of the election in a largely ceremonial vote to certify the electoral college and the outcome in 50 states that legally certified their elections this cycle.

RASCOE: Do you think that Trump was performing an official act when he urged Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election results, and also urged his followers to rally at the Ellipse the same day Congress was to certify the results?

MACE: Well, all actions referenced in the January 6 indictment against Trump were official acts deserving of immunity is what he's saying here. And I agree with that. But on the January 6 - you know, there was, he believed, you know, some things that were happening in the election - you know, he took action and spoke to certain people that he believed might have information with regard to the election, and that's his right to do that. Even if we disagree, I mean, I voted to certify the electoral college, and he had information that maybe others didn't have and was acting on that information.

RASCOE: Going back to the Supreme Court - at that hearing, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor gave a hypothetical. If the president decides his political rival is corrupt, can he order the assassination of that person and get immunity for it?

MACE: Oh, my God.

RASCOE: Trump's lawyer said it depends. What do you think? Can a president order the killing of a political rival?

MACE: Is this interview, like, clickbait for NPR? Like, I just - I mean...

RASCOE: Well, I mean, this is what was talked about in the Supreme Court.

MACE: Yeah, I know. But this is the question that you're asking, like, really?

RASCOE: Well, it was asked by a Supreme Court justice.

MACE: I know. It's just that - even the idea, the idea that a president would assassinate his opposition, is just so asinine. I mean, like, seriously, asinine. This is just, you know, leftists in the media, yourself included, just doing clickbait on Trump. Like...

RASCOE: I would have to respectfully disagree. This came up in a Supreme Court case...

MACE: This is what you're asking me. OK. But go forward. What's your next question? What's the next question?

RASCOE: Trump's lawyer said it depends. What do you think of that?

MACE: Well, I think it's an asinine question by anybody. I don't care if it's a U.S. Supreme Court judge...

RASCOE: But to Trump's lawyer - Trump's lawyer said it depends. So I'm asking you, do you agree?

MACE: No, you're so far left. Like, you have a U.S. Supreme Court justice asking a question, and you're blaming it on the lawyer who answered the question.

RASCOE: Let's turn to the trial underway in New York. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to conceal a payment to keep an alleged relationship with adult film star Stormy Daniel secret before the 2016 election. How do you think the details of this case will affect Trump chances in the fall, even if he's not found guilty?

MACE: How much did Bill Clinton pay off the women to silence them? How much - do you know?

RASCOE: I'm asking you about Trump.

MACE: Yeah. Do you know how much Bill Clinton paid off the women that alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment by him?

RASCOE: I guess what I'm asking - so do you support Bill Clinton?

MACE: I'm asking if you know how much Bill Clinton paid to pay off women.

RASCOE: I don't cover Bill Clinton. I was a child when Bill Clinton was in office.

MACE: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

RASCOE: OK. So can I ask you one last question? Prosecutors alleged Trump has violated...

MACE: Yeah, you have one last question, one last ridiculous question. Go for it.

RASCOE: Prosecutors allege Trump has violated the limited gag order in this trial through his comments attacking witnesses and jurors. Do you think the former president is making it tougher for his legal team to win his case?

MACE: Is this the judge that donated to Biden-Harris presidential campaign in 2020? Is this the same judge putting a gag order on Trump that donates to Democratic candidates? Is this the same one whose daughter works for the Democrat Party as an operative?

RASCOE: So do you want to answer my questions or you just don't want to answer...

MACE: That's my answer. You had one last question and I answered it for you.

RASCOE: OK, well, thank you.

MACE: But you don't like that answer, so good luck.

RASCOE: I don't like or dislike answers, but thank you, Congresswoman Nancy Mace. I appreciate you for coming on.

MACE: You have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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