As President Donald Trump continues to defend his pursuit of warmer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made it clear on Monday that the US does not trust Moscow and “never will.”
“We don’t trust Russia; we don’t trust Putin; we never will,” Haley said in an interview with CBN News. “They’re never going to be our friend. That’s just a fact.”
Haley’s comments stand in stark contrast to those made by Trump following his one-on-one summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, where he sided with the Russian leader over his own intelligence community on the issue of Russian election interference.
News that the US has invited Putin to Washington for a second meeting with Trump later this year has only further fueled criticism over the President’s remarks and prompted warnings from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Trump, however, has defended his first meeting with Putin as “a great success.”
But he has also tried to correct the record on Russian election interference, tweeting Tuesday: “I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”
Defending Trump’s ‘style’
Despite her harsh words about the Russian leader, Haley was also quick to point out on Monday that there is a need for dialogue between Washington and Moscow – adding that it is Trump’s “style” to meet face-to-face with leaders like Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“What I do think is, whether it’s the President sitting down with Kim or whether the president sits down with Putin, those are things that have to happen,” she said. “You can’t get to the end of the other side if you don’t have those conversations.”
“He did that with Kim. He’s done it with other leaders. He did it with President Xi of China and that’s just his way. He feels like he can get more out of them if he goes one-on-one like that. It’s his style. It’s the way he does it,” she added.
But plans for Putin to travel to Washington for another meeting with Trump are already prompting warnings from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican in a tough primary race, told CNN on Tuesday: “I think the first summit was a terrible mistake. The second summit would be equally as bad.”
Republican Rep. Rodney Davis also highlighted his concern over another meeting saying, “I don’t necessarily know it’s a good idea … I don’t trust Russia or North Korea or some of the other dictators we have seen in the world as much as others do.”
In her interview with CBN News, Haley said she expects future meetings between Trump and Putin to have a different dynamic than what was seen in Helsinki.
“You’re going to see their next meetings are going to have people in them, the working groups are going to come together, all of those things,” she said. “But he’s always thought just to create that genuine reality of the two of them talking, he feels like he needs to do it face-to-face.”
‘Own the libs’
Haley also struck a different tone to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday while speaking about free speech and conservative principles at a conservative group’s high school leadership summit in Washington.
Encouraging chants of “lock her up,” Sessions told the crowd of students that the “hard left” has “openly and systematically justified action to deny Americans the right to speak their mind,” adding,”Donald Trump doesn’t believe anyone can tell him how to speak.”
But Haley urged the same group to rise above rhetoric intended to intentionally upset the liberal base or efforts to “own the libs.”
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever posted anything online to quote-unquote ‘own the libs,’” Haley said, the remark drawing laughter and applause.
“I know that it’s fun and that it can feel good, but step back and think about what you’re accomplishing when you do this—are you persuading anyone? Who are you persuading?” Haley asked. “We’ve all been guilty of it at some point or another, but this kind of speech isn’t leadership—it’s the exact opposite. It is a recipe for both sides to dig in.”
“What you say, how you use it is more important and difficult. Real leadership is about persuasion. It’s about movement, it is bringing people around to your point of view,” she added. “Not by shouting them down but by showing them it is in their best interest to see things the way you do. We’re losing that kind of leadership these days.”
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.