In her first interview as United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley said Wednesday that the threat of Russia shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“Take it seriously. We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia,” she told NBC News’ Matt Lauer, taking a harsher stance than President Donald Trump, who has suggested that the United States and Russia might have friendlier relations under his administration.
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Her remarks come in response to a question from Lauer hours after the Justice Department charged Russian intelligence officers for a sweeping criminal conspiracy that hacked 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014.
Haley also defended Trump’s orders banning travel from certain majority-Muslim nations, saying his executive actions are not the Muslim ban he proposed during his campaign — and that she vocally opposed as governor of South Carolina.
Enforcement of Trump’s revised travel order, issued by the president last week, was set to begin Thursday. But a federal judge in Hawaii blocked the new ban Wednesday evening, after Haley’s interview was taped and mere hours before it was to go into effect.
“It’s not a Muslim ban. I will never support a Muslim ban. I don’t think we should ever ban anyone based on their religion. That is un-American. It is not good,” Haley said prior to a judge’s ruling Wednesday. “What I can tell you is, as governor of South Carolina, I knew the fears and the problems that we had with people coming into the country that we could not vet properly.”
The new executive order, now on hold nationwide, is a more limited version of the first travel ban, which prohibited residents and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. and was halted by several court orders.
Haley, speaking prior to the federal judge’s ruling, disputed the idea that Trump’s executive orders had anything to do with religion.
“He’s saying let’s temporarily pause, and you prove to me that the vetting is okay, that I can trust these people coming through for the American people. Every American citizen should appreciate the fact that we’ve gotten so far away from vetting that we need to get back into it,” she said. “The president saying, ‘Show me how you’re gonna vet.'”
Haley was confirmed to her U.N. post by an overwhelming Senate vote, 96-4, four days into Trump’s term. In late 2015, when Trump proposed a complete ban on Muslim entry into the U.S., Haley slammed him, saying the suggested ban “defies everything that this country was based on.”