WASHINGTON — President-elect Trump’s pick to represent the United States at the United Nations told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today that she does not support defunding the UN and that she supports international family planning programs that focus on contraception rather than abortion.
As other nominees for national security posts have said in their respective hearings, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she had not discussed specific regions or policies with Trump, but they “discussed basically the international situation” without going into detail.
Haley told the committee that Russia has done “terrible things” in Syria and in their alliance with Iran, and we “need to let them know we are not OK” with their actions.
Russia “has to have positive actions before we lift any sanctions” imposed after their invasion of Ukraine, she said.
Haley said the plan would be to “get together” with the UN Security Council — on which Russia holds veto power — and the president-elect, and together “come up with a plan” to deal with Russia.
The governor repeatedly indicated that while she disagrees with some of the world body’s actions — she called the recent resolution condemning Israeli settlements and Obama administration abstention “a kick in the gut” — she sees the institution as redeemable.
“I love to fix things and I see a UN that can absolutely be fixed,” Haley said, adding she’d like to review 16 current peacekeeping operations — “some are successful, some are not” — to determine if “we need to shift and do things differently, or do we need to pull out?”
Haley said she “absolutely” supports moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, something mandated by Congress in 1995 but delayed by every president since using a security waiver. “Not only is that what Israel wants, but this Congress has also said that’s what they support,” she said.
“We need to represent our country from a point of strength” from the beginning of the administration, she said, and remind other nations “that we are the moral compass of the world.” If the U.S. shows strength, she said, other nations will want to be America’s ally.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) asked Haley which violations of international order would warrant a quick response from a Trump administration without UN consultation. Haley reiterated that “what we don’t want is knee-jerk reactions” to global crises, and the UN Security Council along with Trump should come up with response plans.
“I would hope there are things that are so overarching you don’t have to convene the UN Security Council,” Menendez replied.
Menendez followed up with a line of questioning Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) posed to Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson last week: whether Haley believes Russia is guilty of war crimes for bombing civilians and hospitals in Aleppo.
“Yes, I do,” Haley replied.
Tillerson was noncommittal, noting that war criminal was a serious charge.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) questioned the nominee on how she would stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. Haley recommended working closely with China. “We can’t let up on North Korea,” she said. “We have to make sure that we are making our voices loud.”
Gardner pressed her to describe how the U.S. would make China help.
“Let China know this affects China … encourage them to say you are the one to make a difference here,” she said.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), highlighting Trump’s tweets about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asked Haley how his Twitter activity would conflict with her efforts at the UN.
Haley stressed the importance of U.S. alliances — “I know that he realizes that” — and attributed his tweets as coming from “a fresh set of eyes” on global affairs.
“As we continue to talk to him about these alliances,” she added, Trump may “be able to see this the way we see this.”
“Once you govern it becomes very different. Once the president gets to hear from his national security team, what he says after that is important,” she later elaborated. “Not all of it will change after Friday, but I’m going to control what I can and that’s the UN.”
Haley defended the United States’ refugee program as something that “has done a lot of good,” such as sheltering Afghans who served as interpreters for U.S. forces and whose lives were in danger. “We always welcomed the refugee program. It changed when it came time for the Syrian refugees,” she said, explaining that FBI Director James Comey could not guarantee proper vetting was occurring because of a lack of information on some refugees. “That’s when I said we can’t take refugees from Syria until I know I can protect the people of South Carolina.”
“Is there any justification for registries for subgroups of Americans?” Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked.
“No, there is not,” Haley replied.
She told the committee that “this administration and I don’t believe there should be any registry based on religion.”
Haley also described how she would define the defeat of ISIS: “When they are no longer a threat and no longer causing harm to Americans.”
The governor said she wanted to review all UN organizations and report back on where U.S. involvement is working and where it isn’t. “I do not think we need to pull money from the UN; we do not believe in slash and burn,” she said, adding she intends to “look at why the UN Security Council is so obsessed with Israel; find out what their answers are.”
Haley said she supports a two-state solution and wants to “help mankind regardless of where they are,” when asked if the U.S. should cut off aid to Palestinians.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked what Haley would do for global LGBT rights – not just harassment, he explained, but countries where gays are tortured and killed.
“We do not allow discrimination of any type to anyone,” she replied. “I will make sure that there is no one discriminated against for any reason, whatsoever.”
Haley told the committee that she supports contraception programs that do not include abortion. “Education and contraception are important” so women “don’t get put in a situation where they sacrifice a life in the process,” she said.
Booker said he hoped Haley “will be one of those independent voices” in the Trump administration, like when she endorsed Rubio during the primary campaign and spoke against the current president-elect.
“I will,” she assured the senator.
On whether she supports scrapping the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, Haley said “what would be more beneficial is that we look at all the details, see if they are in compliance; if there are violations, act on those violations.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asked if global warming is the country’s greatest national security threat.
“I think it’s one of the threats. I don’t think it’s the most important,” Haley responded, saying that climate change will be “on the table” but “not to the burdens of industry and the economy as we go forward.”
Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) predicted that the governor would be “confirmed overwhelmingly.”
Corker added that Haley would likely pick up more knowledge related to foreign relations in time.