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Haley: Trump saved many lives by calling out Syria's Assad

Last Updated Jun 28, 2017 3:27 PM EDT

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley applauded the actions taken by the Trump administration in issuing a stern warning against the Assad regime's intent to launch another chemical weapon attack.

The White House issued a surprise statement Monday night that threatened President Bashar Assad's government with "a heavy price" if it used chemical weapons.

"I can tell you that due to the president's actions, we did not see an incident. What we did see before was all the same activity we had seen prior for the April 4 attack, and so, I think by the president calling out Assad, by the U.S. continuing to remind Iran and Russia while they choose to back Assad, this is something we're not going to put up with, I like to think the president saved many men women and children," Haley said before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said that Syria's government had taken the warning seriously. His statement that the Syrians appear to have taken the White House warning against another chemical attack seriously is based on the fact that there hasn't been a chemical attack since the warning was issued, since the situation at Shayrat airfield has not changed. Mattis wouldn't say what specifically triggered U.S. concerns that an attack might be imminent.

In her opening statement to lawmakers, Haley said America's friends and rivals know that the U.S. has "found its voice at the United Nations."

"We drew a red line: if the U.N. would not act collectively, the United States would act alone. And we did."

She added following the president's actions in Syria, "the international community is now very clear about what the U.S. is for and what the U.S. is against."

When pressed however on her differences in views from Mr. Trump in tackling Russian interference, Haley said she and Mr. Trump were on the "same team."

"He supports me at the U.N. and supports what I'm doing at the U.N.," she said. "I work for the president, and I don't go rogue on the president. He's aware of what I'm doing, in all of these issues we're not apart on it."

Haley also addressed the ongoing tensions with North Korea, recommending that the more pressure put on the North, the better.

"You are dealing with a paranoid leader who thinks we're trying to assassinate him and do a regime change," she said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We need to remember he is building a nuclear program. I think it's going to happen sooner because they're on target to do that, I would welcome any kind of pressure to slow down the process" to denuclearization.

Haley said as the focus remains on the North's nuclear and missile threats, the U.N. will continue to highlight the human rights violations the regime is committing, in the wake of detained American student Otto Warmbier's death.

"Warmbier's death brought home to Americans the brutality that North Koreans have known for decades."

Pressed at the hearing about proposed U.S. cuts to the U.N. budget, Haley said that the Administration was "putting the United Nations on notice" and that "there's a lot of fat around the edges," CBS News' Pamela Falk reports. 

Haley's comments were made as the U.N. just finalized its proposal for the peacekeeping and core budgets, and the U.S. Congress has yet to decide how much the U.S. will trim in its financial contribution to the U.N. 

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital