Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday that President Donald Trump has not blocked her from attacking Russia, even as he continues to assail U.S. news media for its reporting on congressional and legal investigations into whether his aides colluded with Russian officials to help him win the election.
"The president has not once called me and said, 'Don't beat up on Russia' — has not once called me and told me what to say," Haley told ABC News. "I am beating up on Russia."
Haley said Russia's 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula was wrong, as well Moscow's continuing involvement supporting pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine battling Kyiv's forces.
"When they do something wrong," she said, "I have no trouble calling them out. The president has not disagreed with me" holding Russia "accountable."
Asked whether Trump needs to be "beating up on Russia" as well, Haley responded, "Well, of course. He's got a lot of things he's doing, but he is not stopping me from beating up on Russia."
"The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea," Haley said. She added that "Crimea-related sanctions" levied against Russia will continue to "remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine."
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Moscow, on orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin, meddled in last year's presidential election in an effort to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state.
Haley told ABC that "certainly, I think Russia was involved in the election. There's no question about that." She added, "We don't want any country involved in our elections, ever. We need to be very strong on that."
The top U.S. investigative agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is probing whether Trump aides criminally colluded with Russian officials to boost Trump's election chances. In addition, intelligence committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives are conducting their own investigations of Russian interference in the election.
Trump only reluctantly accepted the intelligence community's finding about Russian meddling in the election, but he frequently has disparaged news accounts about the ongoing probes.
On Saturday, on his Twitter account, Trump said, "It is the same Fake News Media that said there is 'no path to victory for Trump' that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!"
It is the same Fake News Media that said there is "no path to victory for Trump" that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2017