Former US Ambassador Nikki Haley has released a new book, and in it she claims that Rex Tillerson (Former Secretary of State) and John Kelly (former White House Chief of Staff) tried to recruit her into a scheme to enact their own policy decisions, not President Trump’s.
In fact, they were trying to “save the country” from the president, and claimed that Trump didn’t know what he was doing, so they had to make their own decisions behind the president’s back, otherwise ‘people would die.’
Haley’s claims, made in a new book and reported by the Washington Post, come as former White House aides have told the House impeachment inquiry that they were alarmed that Trump was making his own policy on Ukraine.
In Haley’s book, With All Due Respect, the Post says:
“Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley wrote.
“It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,” Haley wrote of the views the two men held.
Kelly and Tillerson’s arguments mirror those made by some of the witnesses Democrats called to testify in private before the House Intelligence Committee.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, for example, admitted that he did not know if anything Trump said to the president of Ukraine on their now-infamous phone call was illegal, but that he was concerned that Trump’s views went outside the “interagency” consensus and reflected an “unproductive narrative.”
Haley, who told CBS Sunday Morning that she did not believe the president had done anything wrong in the phone call, has been critical of Trump in the past — most recently, for example, criticizing his withdrawal in Syria.
In a New York interview with The Post coinciding with the book release, Haley also dismissed efforts by House Democrats to impeach Trump. She said she opposes Trump’s efforts to seek foreign help for political investigations in a call with Ukraine’s president, but that the actions are not impeachable.
“There was no heavy demand insisting that something had to happen. So it’s hard for me to understand where the whole impeachment situation is coming from, because what everybody’s up in arms about didn’t happen,” Haley said.
“So, do I think it’s not good practice to talk to foreign governments about investigating Americans? Yes. Do I think the president did something that warrants impeachment? No, because the aid flowed,” she said, referring to nearly $400 million in sidelined military aid.
“And, in turn, the Ukrainians didn’t follow up with the investigation,” Haley said.
In her book, Haley points to several examples of disagreements with Trump. She said she went privately to the president with her concern that he had ceded authority to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two leaders met in Helsinki in 2017 and with her objection to what she called Trump’s “moral equivalence” in response to a deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, later that summer.
Haley did not air any objections publicly, however.
Haley also recounts for the first time that she was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder following the Charleston murders. She described bouts of sobbing, loss of appetite and focus, and guilt for feeling that way when the victims and their families had suffered so much more.
Haley is the U.S.-born daughter of Indian immigrants, and writes in the book about the painful experience of being an outsider in the American South, neither white nor black. Her family was frequently ostracized, she wrote, and the Haley was essentially disqualified from a children’s pageant because Bamberg, South Carolina, only crowned one white winner and one black winner.
In writing about the administration, Haley recalls a disagreement she had with Tillerson and Kelly following an Oval Office showdown over her suggestion that the United States should withhold funding for the U.N. agency that supports Palestinians.
Kelly and Tillerson argued that cutting aid could lead to violence, greater threats to Israel, loss of U.S. influence and political problems for Arab allies, she writes. That view is common among Mideast watchers and Trump critics, who say the administration’s approach is punitive and shortsighted.
Haley said she had the backing of Trump’s Mideast peace envoys, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, but he was not in the room. She did not spell out the views of then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
In the meeting, Haley wrote, Trump seemed to be swinging away from her view, but told the three of them to go resolve their differences elsewhere. In Kelly’s office afterward, Kelly told her, “‘I have four secretaries of state: you, H.R., Jared, and Rex,” she wrote. “‘I only need one.'”
Tillerson and others had an obligation to carry out the president’s agenda because he had been elected, not them, Haley wrote. If they disagreed strongly enough, she said they should quit.
“I was so shocked I didn’t say anything going home because I just couldn’t get my arms around the fact that here you have two key people in an administration undermining the president,” Haley said in The Post interview.
On another occasion, Haley said Kelly stalled and put her off when she wanted to get in to see Trump. When she went around him, he complained. Kelly also made it clear that he thought Trump’s decision to make Haley a full member of the Cabinet, and have her attend National Security Council meetings, had been “terrible,” and that he would ensure the next U.N. ambassador did not carry that rank, she wrote.
Trump gave Haley a warm sendoff last fall, while Kelly’s departure was announced in chillier terms weeks later. Haley’s successor, Kelly Craft, who assumed the U.N. job in September, does not carry the same rank Haley did. Tillerson, meanwhile, was fired by Trump via Twitter in March 2018.
“I have found in politics that when you are a woman in politics you encounter two types of people,” Haley said in the interview, conducted at her publisher’s offices in Lower Manhattan.
“You encounter people who respect you for your skill and your knowledge and the work that you’re trying to do, and support you in that process. Or you encounter people who disregard you and see you as in the way. That would happen at times,” Haley said.
Asked whether she was calling Kelly sexist, Haley said she had no personal quarrel with the retired four-star Marine general, whom she called a patriot.
“It’s a way of saying that sometimes he was not as conscious of the job I was trying to do,” Haley said.
Trump liked her direct approach and was respectful when they disagreed, Haley said.
She wrote that each had taken the other’s measure during the Republican primary, when she first backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and publicly called on Trump to release his tax returns. Trump tweeted that “the people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”
“Trump had been kicked, and he was hollering. But what he didn’t know then was, when I get kicked, I holler too,” Haley wrote.
She fired back with what she describes as “Southern-woman code.”
“Bless your heart,” she tweeted.
The book’s title is a reference to Haley’s comment last year publicly refuting an assertion by White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow that she had suffered “momentary confusion” about forthcoming U.S. sanctions on Russia.
In a detailed blow-by-blow account, Haley wrote that she had gone on television at the request of the White House to address the U.S. response to a deadly April 2018 Syrian chemical weapons attack and the U.S. view that Russia was complicit. When asked about punitive sanctions, Haley said she answered with the latest information she had, which was that Trump had approved new sanctions that would be announced shortly.
But Trump had changed his mind and no one told her, Haley wrote, and then White House staffers hung her out to dry. The Post reported at the time that Trump changed his mind after Haley spoke.
Haley said when a promised White House statement holding her blameless failed to materialize later that day or the next, she gave Kelly a deadline of the close of the following day – a Tuesday – before she went public. Kudlow’s remark to reporters on that Tuesday afternoon was evidence that Kelly did not intend to “fix this,” she wrote.
Bucking some members of her staff who urged her to let it slide, Haley told a reporter: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
Kudlow called within 15 minutes to apologize, and then went public with a mea culpa.
“Women are cautious about politics, for good reason,” she wrote. “It’s not a pretty business. It’s often hateful. It would be wonderful if we could change our politics in America to make it less nasty and less personal. But until that happens, especially if you’re a woman, you have to stand up for yourself. Always.”
The book leaves the door open to a potential return to politics, but is silent about any White House ambitions. In the interview, Haley waved off the question. She will evaluate her next steps year by year, she said.
“I’m not even thinking that way. I’m thinking more of, we need to do all we can to get the president re-elected. And then from there, deciding how I will use the power of my voice,” Haley said.
“I know I’m too young to stop fighting, I know that. And I know that I need and want to be involved in some way that’s helpful.”