South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley pledged before a Senate panel on Wednesday that if confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she would stand up to Russian aggression, even in light of the president-elect's glowing public comments aimed toward Russia's divisive leader.
Haley is the latest cabinet pick to break from President-elect Donald Trump's tone on Russia during confirmation hearings by expressing a commitment to exert pressure on President Vladimir Putin, when necessary.
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"Russia is trying to show its muscle," she told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. "We cannot trust them and need to continue to be cautious."
Haley came out swinging early in her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, criticizing the United Nations for its "bias" against Israel.
Last month the U.N. Security Counsel voted on a resolution to condemn Israel for expanding its settlements in the West Bank and along land claimed by the Palestinians. And under President Obama's direction, the United States abstained from the vote, allowing the measure to easily pass.
Several members of Congress openly opposed the move, a sentiment that Haley echoed on Wednesday in calling the resolution a "grave mistake."
“I would have never have abstained,” Haley said. “That was the moment that we should have told the world how we stand with Israel, and it was a kick in the gut that we didn’t.”
Haley, the daughter of two professors who immigrated to South Carolina from India, joins a small pool of Trump cabinet picks of diverse backgrounds. She also notably stood out as a vocal critic of Trump's candidacy, particularly in voicing opposition to his highly-contested immigration proposals.
While the two-term Republican governor acknowledged on Wednesday that her experience in international diplomacy was lacking, Haley pledged to speak up whenever she disagreed with the president-elect.
Her commitment to that pledge will be tested in navigating theareas where the president elect's public statements on foreign relations breaks from U.S. policy norms.
When pressed by senators to reconcile Trump's most controversial statements along the campaign trail, from suggesting that NATO was obsolete and vowing to rip up a historic climate change agreement, Haley indicated there could be daylight between Trump's promises as a candidate and actions as president.
“Climate change will always be on the table for me,” Haley said.