Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, hit back hard at Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections on Thursday. Haley, speaking to an audience in New York, delivered one of the strongest denunciations yet against Vladimir Putin’s “weapon of choice” and called Russia’s meddling an act of “warfare.”
“I will tell you that when a country can come interfere in another country’s elections, that is warfare. It really is, because you’re making sure that the democracy shifts from what the people want to giving out that misinformation,” Haley said in Politico. “And we didn’t just see it here. You can look at France and you can look at other countries. They are doing this everywhere. This is their new weapon of choice. And we have to make sure we get in front of it.”
Haley continued, “I find it fascinating because the Russians, God bless ‘em, they’re saying, ‘Why are Americans anti-Russian?’ And why have we done the sanctions? Well, don’t interfere in our elections and we won’t be anti-Russian. And I think we have to be so hard on this and we have to hold them accountable and we have to get the private sector to understand they are responsible for this, too. We all have to step up from this event.”
President Trump has frequently denied that Russia attempted to manipulate the 2016 elections, but did sign a sanctions bill passed by Congress. A few weeks ago, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) announced that the Trump Administration had not yet implemented the sanctions.
Even though the president has been largely silent on Russia’s interference, other members of his administration in addition to Haley have spoken out to confirm and condemn the cyberattacks. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are among the members of the Trump Administration who have expressed concern about Russia’s interference in the election.
In her remarks, Haley indicated that the silence from the president does not mean that the threat from Russia is being ignored. The ambassador said that US counterintelligence agencies are “working overtime” to counter the Russian cyberthreat.
Haley made her comments at the “Spirit of Liberty” forum in New York sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute. President Bush made a keynote address at the conference as well, in which he singled out Russia as an external threat to American democracy.