The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, insisted Sunday that she's taking a tough stance on Russia even as President Trump is mired in controversy over the White House's conduct in the congressional investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election.
Speaking on ABC's “This Week” and CBS's “Face the Nation,” the former governor of South Carolina, who was confirmed as ambassador in January, was unequivocal about Russia's meddling in last year's U.S. election.
“Well, certainly, I think Russia was involved in the election,” she told ABC's Martha Raddatz. “There's no question about that. And I think when they finish with all of this process, yes, they need to address Russia, they need to act, and they need to make sure they're loud about it.
“We don't want any country involved in our elections ever.”
In her confirmation hearing, Haley said she had starkly different views from Trump, especially on Russia. Trump has said he respects Russian President Vladimir Putin and thinks the latter is a better leader than former president Barack Obama. Trump has called questions about apparent Russian tampering in the 2016 race “fake news” and blamed such allegations on Democrats, who he says are still sore over losing the election. Democrats have retorted that Trump and his tweets are an attempt to distract Congress and the nation from the investigation.
Haley said Sunday that she doesn't trust Putin. Last month, she told NBC's Matt Lauer: “We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia.”
As ambassador, Haley said Sunday, she had no hesitation taking Russia to task on actions with which the United States disagrees — and that she had received no instructions from Trump to pull punches.
“There's certain things, when they do something wrong, I have no problem calling them out on it,” she said.
“He is not stopping me from beating up on Russia,” she said. “He's not stopping me from talking about the pressure that China needs to be putting on North Korea. He's not stopping me on how we're working together to defeat ISIS,” using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group.
Meanwhile, Trump tweeted Sunday that the media should focus on leaks within his administration.
Investigators continue to probe former national security adviser Michael Flynn's interactions with Russia. The White House said Flynn had “broken trust” by not telling the truth about the contacts.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan and Karoun Demirjian that “Russia's the elephant in the room.”
Last week, Flynn said he would cooperate with congressional investigators if they grant him immunity from prosecution.
The committees are trying to determine whether Flynn or other Trump associates coordinated with the Russian government to meddle in last year's election.
“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,’’ Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, said in a statement Thursday evening, according to The Washington Post's Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima.
Trump has said that Flynn's request isn't an indication that he did something wrong, but rather an attempt to avoid the ramifications of a “witch hunt.”
Meanwhile, a House Intelligence Committee investigation into both Russia’s apparent election meddling and Trump’s surveillance claims has become deeply politicized, with the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), under scrutiny for his handling of the investigation, The Post's Ashley Parker reports.
Although Haley said she didn't trust Russia or Putin, she conceded that the United States needed them to deal with bigger problems.
“We need their pressure when it comes to dealing with ISIS, and we also need their pressure when it comes to dealing with China and North Korea,” she told Raddatz.