Kristi Noem Refuses to Say Whether She Would Have Certified the Election

Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a potential vice-presidential pick for former President Donald J. Trump, refused to say on Sunday whether she would have certified the 2020 election if she had been in Vice President Mike Pence’s position. She also dodged questions about whether she supported exceptions to abortion bans for rape and incest.

“You can go back and keep talking about Jan. 6, but the fact of the matter is that was a day we hope we never see again here in this country,” Ms. Noem said on CNN. “We did not do justice by our country by showing and fighting over that day. We should focus on our freedoms and continue to uphold our Constitution. So talking in hypotheticals is not something that I do.”

When the interviewer, Dana Bash, pressed her on whether Mr. Pence had been wrong to certify the election results, Ms. Noem again avoided a direct answer, instead criticizing Mr. Pence for denouncing Mr. Trump after Jan. 6.

“I wasn’t in Mike Pence’s shoes, and the information that he had at that time — I don’t know how he based his decisions,” she said. “I think he’s a nice man. I think that he’s failed Donald Trump since that day, because he certainly does not recognize that we need someone in the White House who needs him out on the trail advocating for him, instead of constantly criticizing and going back and ripping him apart.”

On abortion, Ms. Noem, who supported a federal ban when she was a member of Congress, said she now believed restrictions should be left to individual states. That is the position Mr. Trump took this month, though his allies have developed plans that could functionally ban abortion nationwide without formally doing so.

Mr. Trump has also expressed support for rape and incest exceptions, which South Dakota’s near-total abortion ban does not include. When asked about that, Ms. Noem tried to distance herself from her own state’s law, noting that it was a “trigger ban” enacted years ago to take effect if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“The law in my state was passed decades before I ever became governor,” she said, adding: “That may be a topic that will continue to be discussed in South Dakota. Our law today allows an exception to save the life of the mother, but the people in South Dakota will decide what their laws look like.”

She did not give a clear answer when Ms. Bash asked what she believed South Dakota’s laws should look like.

“I can have an opinion, and I can weigh forward and I can look at the science and what we’ve learned about babies in the womb and believe that we should protect life, but I think that our law today is what South Dakota wants,” she said. “And they’ll continue to have that debate, and I’ll continue to follow through on my role, which is to make sure the will of the people is enforced.”

Ms. Bash repeated her question, and Ms. Noem implied — but did not say outright — that she might oppose a rape and incest exception.

“We have a law that says that there is an exception for the life of the mother, and I just don’t believe a tragedy should perpetuate another tragedy,” she said. Versions of that statement are common among people who believe abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest.

“I believe in taking care of mothers that are in a crisis situation and that we should be locking alongside them, giving them all the information and the best information they can make before they have to be put in a situation where an abortion is the only option that they have,” she added.

Ms. Noem also echoed Mr. Trump’s claims that the criminal charges against him in New York — where his trial began last week — were political, and affirmed that she would support him even if he were convicted of felonies.

“When he was in the White House, every single day as governor, I got to be on offense, I got to solve problems,” she said. “And since Joe Biden has been in the White House, I just have to defend the freedoms of my people in South Dakota. I’m every day trying to push back on what this federal government is trying to do by increasing costs for the everyday families that get up every day and go to work. So yes, Donald Trump should be back in that White House. I’m going to do all I can to help him win.”

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