- Mike DeBonis, Carol Morello The Washington Post
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, renewed her attacks on Russia in a speech delivered Thursday to Republican lawmakers as the investigation into President Donald Trump's campaign reached a new level of intensity.
Haley directly acknowledged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, calling it "outrageous" and claiming the Trump administration is "taking steps" to prevent a repeat. She also said the Trump administration has been "tougher on Russia than any American administration since Ronald Reagan," even after the White House took a pass this week on adding more sanctions that Congress had asked for.
"I have no idea what Russia expected from the American elections, but I gotta tell you, they are not happy with what they ended up with," she said. "And that's the way it should be, until Russia starts to act like a responsible country."
Haley spoke at a dinner at the annual Republican policy retreat. Trump addressed a luncheon here earlier in the day, and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a dinner Wednesday.
In other comments, Haley said that U.S. foreign aid payments should go to countries that support the United States at the United Nations, setting the stage for more confrontations with countries that otherwise have good relations with America.
Her call came after Trump, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, called on Congress to pass legislation "to help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests and only go to America's friends."
"It's outrageous to see so many countries who we support go against us at the U.N.," Haley said. "The president and I are now telling all countries we're watching their votes and we're taking names. We need your help to send the same message."
Haley has long taken a hawkish line toward Russia, even as Trump has maintained a much more conciliatory posture — meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, for instance, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.
Her remarks now come in a more heated atmosphere, with special counsel Robert Mueller III accelerating his scrutiny of the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. Mueller filed indictments in December against four campaign figures, including a foreign policy adviser with Russia ties.
"Yes, Russia did meddle in our elections," Haley said, adding, "There is no reason to think the Russian interference made any difference between who won and lost in the U.S. elections, but the very fact that they did it is an outrageous thing, and something the Administration is taking steps to prevent in the future."