Martha Raddatz's devastating grilling of Nikki Haley exposes Trump's weakness on Russia, Syria


While Donald Trump has steadily praised and defended Vladimir Putin, his diplomatic leaders have offered little more than weak token condemnations for Russia's destructive actions around the world. In a devastating interview with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, ABC News' Martha Raddatz exposed this fecklessness.

Despite Donald Trump's implicit promise to roll back President Obama's sanctions over Russia's interference in our election, he has not had the political cover to make good on it.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley have managed to avoid imposing any additional penalties on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, Syria, and the United States, instead offering token condemnations to appease administration critics.

In an interview with Haley, This Week anchor Martha Raddatz exposed the Trump administration's sham diplomacy by pressing Haley for details on what consequences have been, or will be, imposed on Russia. Haley claimed to have "beat up on" Russia, then belied that claim by calling Russia's actions in Ukraine "wrong," and their allegiance to Syrian President Assad "not helpful."

Raddatz confronted Haley with Trump's previous defense of Putin, and asked if it should be Trump, not Haley, "beating up on" Russia:

RADDATZ: "There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent?" So, how does the U.S. maintain its role as the moral conscience of the world, to use your words this week, if the president won't condemn what's happening inside Russia?

HALEY: Well, Martha, this is what I can tell you: 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, has not once —

RADDATZ: But he isn't beating up on Russia! Should he be beating up on Russia? Again, how does —

HALEY: I am. I am beating up on Russia —

RADDATZ: So he doesn't need to?

HALEY: Well, it's — of course, he's got a lot of things he's doing. But he is not stopping me from beating up on Russia.

Let that sink in for a moment, and imagine, say, if President Obama were too busy doing things like trolling Chuck Todd to condemn a foreign enemy for attacking the United States, or for supporting the killing of civilians.

And Raddatz did not let it go at that, again pressing Haley on Trump's silence, and eliciting what amounts to an admission that Trump's diplomatic leaders are merely checking a public relations box when they "talk tough" on Russia:

RADDATZ: You talk tough. But again, doesn't President Trump have to start talking tough?

HALEY: He has his people talking tough. And that's what we're doing is, right now we're saying whatever we need to say. Look, he's the president. He can say what he wants whenever he wants. But the direction we've gotten is to do our jobs, make sure the United States is strong, and that's what we'll do.

Raddatz continued to question Haley about what actions will be taken regarding Russia and Syria, and when Haley could not come up with anything but talk, Raddatz called her out. "That sounds like talk, Ambassador Haley," Raddatz said. "That sounds like talk, not walk."

Even in the face of that challenge, Haley could offer nothing more than talk in response:

RADDATZ: That sounds like talk, Ambassador Haley. That sounds like talk, not walk.

HALEY: I don't — oh, no. The walk is there. If you go and you look at what we're trying to do in Syria, it's only been two months. Look at how much of a difference we've made at the United Nations just in the last two months.

We are calling out Russia when we need to. We are working on making sure we push Iranian influence out when it comes to Syria. We are talking about the pressure on China that needs to happen with North Korea.

But then we're also moving things. We've changed the Israel bias that's happening at the United Nations by making sure that we call out anyone that focuses on that as opposed to focusing on the conflicts. We made sure that a ridiculous report that came out comparing Israel to apartheid state, we had that report pulled down, the director resigned.

We are now changing the culture at the United Nations. And with that, we're changing the culture in the world in the discussions that we're having.

With the cloud of the Russia investigation hanging over Trump, especially in light of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's shopping for an immunity deal, Trump does not have the political cover he needs to explicitly deliver for Russia. But as Raddatz ably exposed, he is able to assuage Russia with his silence, and assure them that the talk being offered by his top diplomats is nothing more than that.