(CNSNews.com) – Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Sunday she found “offensive” attempts by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to get her to help “undermine” President Trump.
Commenting on an explosive allegation contained in her forthcoming memoir, Haley told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell that Tillerson and Kelly should have taken their concerns directly to the president.
O’Donnell read an excerpt from the book, With All Due Respect: “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country.”
“And then Secretary of State Tillerson went on to tell you,” O’Donnell continued, “the reason he resisted the president’s decisions was because, if he didn’t, people would die.”
She asked Haley whether the incident had “definitely happened.”
“It absolutely happened,” Haley replied. “And instead of saying that to me, they should’ve been saying that to the president, not asking me to join them on their sidebar plan.”
“It should’ve been, go tell the president what your differences are, and quit if you don’t like what he’s doing. But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing. And it goes against the Constitution, and it goes against what the American people want. It was – it was offensive.”
O’Donnell quoted Kelly as telling the network in response: “If by resistance and stalling she means putting a staff process in place … to ensure the [president] knew all the pros and cons of what policy decision he might be contemplating so he could make an informed decision, then guilty as charged.”
The Washington Post, which interviewed Haley and reviewed the memoir ahead of its scheduled release on Tuesday, said Haley wrote that she felt Tillerson and others had an obligation to carry out Trump’s agenda since he was the elected president, not them, and if they felt strongly about the issue in dispute, they should quit.
Haley recalled Kelly’s unhappiness with the fact she was a member of the cabinet and attended National Security Council meetings, calling Trump’s decision to give her that status “terrible” and saying he would make sure her successor did not carry cabinet rank.
(Ambassadors to the U.N. have been members of the cabinet in most but not all administrations since the 1950s, with the George W. Bush administration a recent exception. President Obama restored the cabinet rank when he nominated Susan Rice as ambassador. Haley was a member of the cabinet, but her successor, Kelly Craft, is not.)
Haley was widely regarded – and not just in the U.S. – as an outspoken, effective ambassador to the world body. In an April 2018 Quinnipiac poll she received 63 percent job approval, higher than those given to other senior administration officials or both parties’ leaders in Congress. (Kelly got 44 percent; in a Quinnipiac poll the previous October Tillerson got 31 percent.)
She resigned in October last year and left at the end of the year on what appeared publicly to be good terms with the president.
By contrast, Trump announced Tillerson’s departure in a March 2018 tweet, and would later describe him, again on Twitter, as “dumb as a rock.” Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general who was previously Homeland Security Secretary, resigned last December, amid reports of policy differences with the president.
‘What’s at stake is the Constitution’
In a recent speech Haley recalled serving in the “alongside colleagues who believed that the best thing to do for America was to undermine and obstruct the president.”
Without naming them, she said, “They sincerely believed they were doing the right thing. I sincerely believed they weren’t.”
“For those who don’t like the president, they are free to protest him – and many do,” Haley said in the speech. “But if you serve in the administration, you are not free to push your personal agenda. What’s at stake is not President Trump’s policies. What’s at stake is the Constitution.”
News reports on the memoir and the Tillerson and Kelly material prompted strong responses on social media Sunday, generally reflecting posters’ views on the president.
While Trump supporters praised Haley for speaking out and for standing by him, Trump critics accused her of trying to ingratiate herself with the president.
In the CBS News interview Haley did not paper over differences she had with some Trump policies – including recently in Syria, where a small number of U.S. troops were pulled back from an area near the Turkish border ahead of a Turkish military offensive against Syrian Kurd fighters who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.
“I think we should always have the backs of our allies, always” she said in response to a question about the Kurds, noting that 11,000 Syrian Kurds had died liberating northeastern Syria from ISIS.
“We should always want to bring troops home,” Haley said, alluding to Trump’s stated reasoning for withdrawing forces from Syria and elsewhere. “But we have troops all over the world. We have them in Japan and we have them in South Korea, you know – name all of these countries that we have – we don’t have them because we’re at war, we have them for prevention. And we should always make sure that we are able to prevent, especially in the Middle East …”
According to the Washington Post, Haley in the book writes about speaking privately to Trump about issues or statements which she disagreed with, such as “her concern that he had ceded authority to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two leaders met in Helsinki in 2018.”
Critics accused Trump at the time of siding with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community, when asked whether he believed the Russian leader or the intelligence agencies on the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In both the Post and CBS News interviews, Haley supported Trump in the face of Democrats’ drive to impeach him – based on allegations that he withheld military aid from Ukraine in a bid to compel it to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“The Ukrainians never did the investigation. And the president released the funds,” Haley said. “I mean, when you look at those, there’s just nothing impeachable there.”
“And more than that, I think the biggest thing that bothers me is the American people should decide this,” she added. “Why do we have a bunch of people in Congress making that decision?”
Trump on Sunday evening tweeted in support of Haley’s book. “Make sure you order your copy today, or stop by one of her book tour stops to get a copy and say hello. Good luck Nikki!”