Ayotte on Her 'Role Model' Comment and Trusting Trump With SCOTUS Picks

Oct 5, 2016

Kelly Ayotte
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte says that while Donald Trump isn't a role model for children, she trusts him on  policy issues and appointing justices to the United States Supreme Court. 

Speaking to NHPR's Morning Edition Wednesday, Ayotte reiterated that she misspoke during Monday night's debate when she said the Republican presidential nominee is "absolutely" a role model for children.

Ayotte now says neither Trump nor Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton are people children should look up to.

"I couldn’t hold either of them out as role models for my children, but obviously you’ve got to look at the policy issues in this election. And I’m concerned about the direction we’ve been taking on national security and Hillary Clinton was obviously in charge of many of those decisions."

Ayotte's comment drew widespread national attention. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus weighed in Tuesday, saying that Trump is a "winner" and has a life story children can look up to.

"You know, I think everyone's a role model in different ways," Priebus said.

Asked about some of Trump's recent controversial comments, including his recent Twitter attack on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado and criticizing her weight, Ayotte said, "I’ve actually called him out on many occasions on comments that he’s made and that’s something I will continue to do when I disagree with him."

Ayotte maintains that while she is voting for Trump, she isn't endorsing him.

"I don’t think there’s anything confusing about it," Ayotte said. "We’ve got two choices in this election essentially of who may be president, and like all the voters, I’ve got to vote for one of them. I want change. I think we’ve been fundamentally going in the wrong direction."

Ayotte also said she trusts Trump to appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court.

You can read the entire transcript below: 

I want to start with a comment you made during Monday night’s debate that as you know is getting a lot of attention. You were asked whether Donald Trump is a role model for children, and you said absolutely you would say that.

You later said you misspoke, so what did you mean to say?

I did misspeak at the debate. I don’t believe – first of all, I hope all of our children aspire to run for president. But I don’t think Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton have set a good example and I would not hold either of them out as role models for my children.

When you need to walk back that statement, now saying your own party’s presidential nominee isn’t someone children should look up to, what does that say about Trump?

Well, I think we have a situation – what does it say about both candidates? I couldn’t hold either of them out as role models for my children, but obviously you’ve got to look at the policy issues in this election. And I’m concerned about the direction we’ve been taking on national security and Hillary Clinton was obviously in charge of many of those decisions; the Iran agreement, decisions that were made that I have disagreements with and I’m concerned about our security on.

But what is it specifically he’s said or done that makes you uncomfortable with him being a role model for children? For example, are you comfortable with someone who wants to be president lashing out at a former Miss Universe on Twitter and criticizing her weight?

Well, I’ve actually called him out on many occasions on comments that he’s made and that’s something I will continue to do when I disagree with him. And I think what’s really important is no matter who’s in that Oval Office, that when I disagree with that person, I will be quite clear about that when I think they’re going in the wrong direction for New Hampshire or based on things they say or do. And then also work with the individual, whoever’s elected, to get good things done, even if they’re of the opposing party. And that’s something I’ve done in my time in the Senate. For example, you may recall when members of my own party pushed a government shutdown, I was one of the strongest critics of that tactic and really stood up and I think that’s what we need to do and that’s what the people of New Hampshire deserve.

You’ve walked this fine line for months, saying you’ll vote for Trump, but you won’t endorse him. Can you understand why voters may be confused by that distinction?

I don't think there's anything confusing about it. We've got two choices in this election for who may be president, and like all the voters, I've got to vote for one of them. I want change. I think we've been fundamentally going in the wrong direction.

  I don’t think there’s anything confusing about it. We’ve got two choices in this election for who may be president, and like all the voters, I’ve got to vote for one of them. I want change. I think we’ve been fundamentally going in the wrong direction, especially on many of these national security issues, including the Iran agreement. And that’s a big disagreement in this race. One of the first things that Gov. Hassan did when she got in this race was endorse the Iran agreement. And I believe it has made the country less safe, with their testing of ballistic missiles, support for terrorism, and how we’ve seen that unfold. So I’ve been clear that I’m voting for him, but I’ve not endorsed him because we’ve had a multitude of issues where I’ve not agreed with him and I’ve been clear about that.

The U.S. Supreme Court began its new session this week, and continues to be a down a justice with your party refusing to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

You’ve argued the next president should appoint Antonin Scalia’s replacement, but given the concerns you’ve raised about Trump, do you trust him to make what could be up to three appointments to the nation’s highest court?

Well, I think the Senate obviously will have an important advise and consent role in this to make sure whoever is nominated is qualified to serve. And certainly I want to make sure that we do let the next president make that appointment and let people weigh in with their vote in November. I would certainly expect him in that role to nominate qualified justices and I’m confident he’ll do that. He’s put out a number of people who could be proposed names, and that’s not exclusive, but the Senate will look to make sure that whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump nominates someone that they’re qualified.

But do you trust Donald Trump in that role?

I do.

If Hillary Clinton wins, would you be willing to confirm Merrick Garland during the lame duck session?

Well, I think it’s really going to be up to Secretary Clinton, if she wins this election, whether she would be renominating and supporting Merrick Garland. I’ve said very clearly from day one that the new president is going to weigh in on who they want to nominate. So if she is going to affirm that that will be her nominee, as well, then absolutely I will be giving him full consideration.

In the Senate last week, you and 96 other Senators, including Jeanne Shaheen, voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that allows families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now says the bill could have unintended consequences and criticized the president for not making the issues with the legislation clear.

But is that fair? Didn’t President Obama raise those issues when he vetoed the bill?

First of all, I voted with Senator Shaheen to override his veto because I do believe the victims of 9/11 should have their day in court and that it’s important that they do that. And certainly those issues were raised at the time and obviously the Senate spoke on the issue overwhelmingly.

So do you disagree with the Majority Leader?

Yes, I do disagree with him on this. I vote for that override. I think it was the right thing to do for the victims of 9/11. It is legislation that does still give the president an opportunity if there is a particular concern, the president does have some authority with that legislation going forward that he can exercise. And I think it’s important that the 9/11 victims have their day.