WASHINGTON -- The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says Washington should "never trust Russia," the latest in a series of hawkish statements that have made her a leading Russia critic in President Donald Trump's administration.
The statement by Nikki Haley in a television interview broadcast on March 16 came on the same day that the U.S. State Department issued a stern condemnation of Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory, which Haley has also publicly denounced.
Haley's comments also came amid the ongoing furor over what U.S. intelligence calls a Kremlin-directed campaign to meddle in last year's presidential election aimed at helping Trump defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The Kremlin denies the charge.
After expressing initial skepticism, Trump conceded that he believes Russia was behind a hacking-and-propaganda effort to interfere in the election but that the operation did not influence the outcome of the vote.
Asked by the U.S. television network NBC what Trump should do about Russia's actions, Haley said: "Take it seriously."
"We should never trust Russia," she said, while adding that the United States needs "all the facts" in order to formulate a proper response to Moscow.
NBC asked whether Haley was on the same page with Trump "in terms of your level of distrust for Russia and [President] Vladimir Putin."
"I would not say that,” Haley replied. "I'm not going to talk about where the president is, because I don't know."
Throughout his campaign, Trump spoke positively about Putin and pledged to seek better relations with Russia.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress expressed concerns that a potential softer U.S. line on Russia under Trump could effectively give Moscow a pass for its expansionism in Ukraine.