It's not often that an official in President Trump's administration publicly questions the White House, but it happened on Tuesday. And when (or if) that moment comes again, the bar has been set by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Her comeback after a Trump spokesman asserted she was "confused" on Russian sanctions made clear the former governor won't be the scapegoat for any White House problems.
The original diss came from Larry Kudlow — Trump's director of the National Economic Council — in a response to Haley's Sunday appearance on CBS This Morning. During that interview, Haley said the United States would be implementing new sanctions against Russia. However, the Trump team announced Monday that the president has decided to backtrack on the bipartisan congressional action, and no new punitive measures on the Kremlin will be immediately forthcoming.
Speaking with reporters Monday, Kudlow blamed Haley, saying, "There might have been some momentary confusion" about her declaration of new sanctions on Russia.
Haley was not having it. She released a statement Tuesday that read, "With all due respect, I don't get confused."
The intra-administration tiff concerns a law approving further sanctions against Russia, passed almost unanimously by Congress last summer — a law Trump himself signed. Monday was the deadline for enacting those sanctions, and Trump decided against taking that route.
According to the AP, Kudlow called Haley on Tuesday to apologize for his comment.
Haley is not shy about speaking her mind, and she's one of the few critics of Trump who still managed to secure a spot in the president's administration. Haley's had public back-and-forths with Trump himself — and her career lives on to tell the tale. To take just one example, in March of 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted that South Carolinians were "embarrassed by Nikki Haley!" (Haley had recently endorsed Marco Rubio in South Carolina's prominent primary race and publicly called for Trump to release his tax returns.) In response to Trump, Haley responded with the quintessential Southern dig: "Bless your heart."
Even in her confirmation that she planned on voting for Trump, Haley minimized her support for the Republican nominee. She said at a news conference at the time that she was "not a fan" of either candidate.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Haley's also been the focus of salacious rumors that she and Trump had/are having an affair. Haley's denied the allegation — pulled from Michale Wolff's book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House — multiple times.
Speaking in January on the CNN podcast "Women Rule," Haley discussed the gossip. "At every point in my life, I've noticed that if you speak your mind and you're strong about it and you say what you believe, there is a small percentage of people that resent that," she said. Haley went on to say that such people will "try and throw arrows — lies or not — to diminish you."
On the topic of Russian interference in the U.S. election — and the need for tough sanctions in response — Haley has been unwavering. That's despite Trump's many, many equivocations and waffling on the role the Kremlin played in influencing the 2016 election, as well as Russia's various other questionable actions. Notably, Prime Minister Teresa May recently announced the "highly likely" possibility that Russia was behind the assassination attempt on British soil of a former Russian spy and his daughter. Trump stopped short of a full-throated endorsement of May's assessment.
For now, it seems Haley has won the argument over her "confusion" on the administration's sanctions on Russia.