U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said unequivocally in an interview that aired Thursday that Russia should “never” be trusted — a far tougher stance than the one taken by her boss, President Trump.
Asked by NBC's Matt Lauer what she thinks Trump should do in response to Russia's cyber attacks meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Haley said, “Take it seriously. We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia.”
Haley went on to say that the Trump administration should take “some sort of action” against Russia once investigations are completed regarding its efforts to influence the election.
She also sought to distance herself from Trump, who has said he hopes to build warm relations with Russia, perhaps by partnering to defeat Islamic State terrorists, and who has refused to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin.
When Lauer asked whether she considered herself on “the same page” as the president in their level of distrust of Russia, Haley said she did not.
“I would not say that,” she said. “I'm not going to talk about where the president is, because I don't know. I have always made it very clear, from my confirmation and in the words that I've said from the U.N., that I don't trust Russia.”
Haley said that Trump is “very open-minded about working with everyone,” including the Russians, but that he has allowed her to “call them out” when she sees something wrong.
Haley said she does not have any questions about the relationship between Trump and some of his associates and Russians.
“I really don't, and I'll tell you why: Because I've talked to him about it,” she said. “And while they know of people, you've got to look at the fact that ambassadors' jobs are to talk to everyone. That's what I think we've seen the Russian ambassador do. At the same time, not once has he told me not to slam Russia. He's not once told me, 'Go and be nice to Russia.' He's letting me do my job.”
Haley has emerged as a frequent and pointed alternative voice on U.S. foreign policy, beginning with Senate confirmation hearings in which she parted ways with past Trump statements on Russia, the value of the NATO alliance and any ban on Muslim immigration.
As U.N. ambassador, she has stepped ahead of the White House with forceful statements on subjects including North Korea. Her statement that “all options are on the table” with the nuclear-armed country was widely read as a threat of military action opposed by China, a fellow U.N. Security Council member and the last stop for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s debut trip to Asia this week.
Anne Gearan contributed to this post.