It was hardly surprising that the plain-speaking U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was not going to take any nonsense, not even from Trump’s advisors, going by a succession of events over the last few days over Russia policy. And unlike several previous Trump senior officials who have fallen like nine-pins over the last year if they don’t toe the White House line, she was not going to let the rug be pulled from under her feet, or at the least, not take it lying down.
When Trump’s newbie economic advisor Larry Kudlow claimed that Haley “got confused” and had “got ahead of the curve” regarding statements she made about Washington imposing additional sanctions on Russia, Haley shot back, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
On CBS “Face the Nation” April 15, Haley said, “So you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. (Treasury) Secretary (Steve) Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday (April 16) if he hasn’t already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.”
That was two days after President Trump ordered air strikes targeting chemical weapons facilities in Syria April 13, when he also urged Russia and Iran to withdraw their support of Assad.
But the Trump administration appears to have backed down from applying those additional sanctions on Russia, that Haley was so sure were in the pipeline. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” something Kudlow had also conceded earlier.
The former Governor of South Carolina sent her pithy response to Kudlow’s comments in a statement read out on air by Fox News’ Dana Perino April 17.
According to The Hill newspaper, Kudlow called Haley later to apologize for his comments about her being ‘confused.’
Where this apparent rift between the White House and Haley will end is not clear yet, but the Indian-American who is the first in the community to be in a cabinet-level post, has made statements in the past that don’t gel with the views of the President. And even in more uncomfortable situations, such as sexual harassment accusations made by several women against President Trump, Haley said the women should be allowed to have their say. And she is still in office.
Attacking Russia as a bad actor is also something Haley has not shied away from in her pronouncements at the United Nations. But Russia is a sore point with the Trump administration faced with a Special Counsel investigation into possible Russian interference in U.S. elections and the Trump campaign being conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Haley is a gritty politician, she has been often mentioned as a possible future presidential material and a star of the Republican Party. She won elections to the South Carolina state legislature despite opposition from members of her own Republican establishment; she also won the gubernatorial election … twice, despite similar opposition, plus attacks on her personal character.
During her tenure as Governor, she also took a stand on pulling down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State House, following a massacre by a young white supremacist Dylann Roof, inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
She has also been an effective UN representative lending consistency at an international forum to an otherwise seemingly roiling foreign policy within the administration at home.
Nevertheless, those who serve in the administration, especially at the highest levels, do so at the discretion of the President. And whether Haley has pushed the envelope a little too far remains to be seen over the coming days and weeks.