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Transcript: Nikki Haley on "Face the Nation," June 4, 2017

Extended interview: Nikki Haley, June 4
Extended interview: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, June 4 10:29

President Donald Trump's announcement Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement stunned the international community and signaled a growing divide between the U.S. and many of its allies.   

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley joined "Face the Nation" to discuss how she'll convince America's allies -- in light of the United States' departure from the historic Paris accord -- that the U.S. will remain invested in other international commitments.

What follows is a transcript of the extended version of the interview, part of which aired Sunday June 4, 2017 on "Face the Nation."

Note: Due to the terror attack in London, we are unable to air the below, extended version in its entirety on the June 4 broadcast.

JOHN DICKERSON: Joining us now to talk about the president's decision to pull out of the climate change agreement is United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who joins us from New York. Ambassador, you have to make the kinds of agreements of which the Paris accord was an example, getting all these countries to agree to something. How does the president's decision here affect your ability to do that on other matters?

NIKKI HALEY: You know, at the United Nations we deal with a lot of different issues, from North Korea, to Syria, to peacekeeping reform. All of those things. It's one issue of many issues that we work on. And so sometimes we have agreements, and sometimes we have disagreements. It's the nature of the international community. And that's what we're working through.

JOHN DICKERSON: But a lot of people have - around the world have looked at the president's decision and said, "This is really an affront to international agreements and to that kind of cooperation you talk about." As you talk to diplomats, what's the reaction you're getting?

NIKKI HALEY: I think they understand. They understand that the U.S. is doing what's in the best interest for the U.S. And the thing is, John, we've always been a leader when it comes to the environment. And we've always been very conscious of that. And what you're seeing the U.S. do is making sure we're taking care of the U.S. first.

Nikki Haley weighs in on U.S. withdrawal from Paris accord 03:55

Our first concern does not need to be what the international community thinks of us. Our concern needs to be, "Are we doing right by the American citizens?"

JOHN DICKERSON: Does the president believe in climate change, ambassador?

NIKKI HALEY: He believes the climate is changing. And he believes pollutants are part of that equation. And I know how that he is absolutely intent on making sure that we have clean air, clean water, that he makes sure that we're doing everything we can to keep America's moral compass in the world when it comes to the environment. We've done that in the past. We'll do it in the future. It's what the U.S. does. It's what we'll continue to do.

JOHN DICKERSON: That seems to be a difference from what the president has said. Before he had said, "I do not believe in climate change." And he has called it a hoax. So you're saying that's not true. He believes in man-made climate change?

NIKKI HALEY: The president believes the climate is changing. And he does know that pollutants are a part of that equation.

JOHN DICKERSON: So he believes that human activity which creates those pollutants leads to climate change, is that right?

NIKKI HALEY: I mean, John, I just gave you the answer. I mean, that's what he believes. And so that's as clear as I know to give it.


NIKKI HALEY: You know, we can all weigh this out, but at the end of the day, watch what the president does. What he is doing is making sure that we have jobs for American citizens but also making sure that we have a clean environment.

The thing is: should we do what in – with the environment – what America thinks is best or what the international community thinks is best? Either way, America is doing a lot better than most countries. They should continue if they like the Paris agreement. But we shouldn't be dependent on what the international community thinks we should and shouldn't do.

JOHN DICKERSON: The United Nations, the document on sustainable development says that climate change is caused by human activities. Do you agree with that?

NIKKI HALEY: You know, I do think that climate change is real. And I think that it's something that we have to deal with. But I also think it has to be a balance. And, you know, as governor of South Carolina, that was what I did. We had a lot of tourists. And our air, water, mountains, all of that was a big part of our economy.

Nikki Haley discusses Trump's stance on climate change 01:07

But we also had to make sure manufacturing was coming in. And that's what every governor in the country faces. That's what every country faces. And it's up to each country to understand their sovereignty and understand that they have to have their own responsible ways of dealing with the environment.

JOHN DICKERSON: You and the president have said he would like to forge a new agreement with the international community. Now, countries like Germany and Italy have said there can be no agreement. But also how can there be an agreement if the United States doesn't believe that human activity leads to climate change and the entire rest of the world does?

NIKKI HALEY: I, John, I think that at the end of the day we can debate the minutiae of what is and what isn't climate change. But at – but what we have to look at is the president said he's going to look out for jobs, he's going to look out for the economy, and he's going to look out for America's interests. But we're always going to be a good international citizen. It's what we've always done. We've always been conscious of the environment. We're not going to stop doing that.

JOHN DICKERSON: Okay. Well, it seems like there is an irrevocable disagreement with the rest of the world. Let me - let me ask you this question--

NIKKI HALEY: I think the rest of the world would like to tell us how to manage our own environment. And I think that anybody in America can tell you that we're best to decide what America should do. We don't need India, and France, and China telling us what they think we should do.

JOHN DICKERSON: Angela Merkel, apparently, in her conversation with the president about this, said, "If the United States pulled out of the agreement, what would the moral message be to countries like Africa where this -- where climate change affects drought, and famine, and war, and then also countries like Fiji where the rising sea levels affect it?" What's the answer to Chancellor Merkel?

NIKKI HALEY: The answer is that they should continue doing what's in the best interest. And if the Paris agreement was something that works for them, that they can achieve, they should do that. You know, there is a reason that President Obama didn't go through the Senate to get this cleared, because he couldn't.

It was -- the regulations were unattainable. I mean, you could not actually have a business run under the regulations that we had. And so we're not saying, "Forget about the environment."

We know that there are issues with the environment. We know that we have to be conscious of it. But we can't sit there and have Angela Merkel telling us to worry about Africa. She should continue doing her part. We're going to continue doing our part. We're going to continue encouraging other countries to do what they think is in the best interests of them. But, you know, American sovereignty matters.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about North Korea. Since we talked in early April, North Korea had some failed missile launches. They've now had a few more. A little bit more successful. What is the current temperature of the situation with North Korea?

NIKKI HALEY: I think it's volatile. I think what you can see is that we have worked very closely with China. China has really stood up in putting the pressure on North Korea. And yesterday the Security Council voted to increase sanctions on individuals and entities that are related to those ballistic missile tests.

And we voted 15 to zero. And that included China and Russia in that vote. North Korea is sitting on its own against the international community. The international community has said loud and clear, "This must stop." Now it's up to whether North Korea sees the seriousness of the issue.

JOHN DICKERSON: When we spoke in April, you said that it was Washington chatter about the question of Russian meddling in the elections. But since then there have been more reports about Russia trying to meddle in NATO countries. The president of Russia has talked about breaking up NATO as an objective. And yet the U.S. has taken no action against Russia. Why?

NIKKI HALEY: Well, I think that, you know, they're going through the motions of the investigation. I could tell you we've taken actions against Russia in the Security Council. We've stood strong on the sanctions in their situations with Ukraine. We called them out in their association with the Assad regime.

We're going continue to call them out as we need to. At the same time, we are trying to see if we can have talks with them on how to better come in line in the Syrian conflict. We're working with them on counter-terrorism. But if we see Russia doing anything wrong, we're going to tell them.

I can tell you the international community is concerned about Russia's meddling within all of their elections. But they're concerned about Russia for a lot of reasons. And so we'll continue to keep our eye on them. And when we can work with them, we want to try and do that. But when we can't, we're going to hold the line.

JOHN DICKERSON: There are a couple of sanctions measures moving through the Senate to try to sanction Russia for meddling in the election, for their role in Syria. Do you support those sanctions measures?

NIKKI HALEY: I support whatever Congress comes up with. I mean, I think that, you know, we don't ever want to see a country meddling in our elections. It's a serious thing. I think that we know the vote was not changed because of the meddling of Russia. But it doesn't make it right. And I think that at the end of the day Russia needs to know that there are consequences when they get involved in our elections.

JOHN DICKERSON: You have spoken out about human rights. And you said that, "I think America first," referring to the President's slogan, "is human rights and that America first - first is humanitarian issues." But when the president talks, he says he's not going to lecture countries. So help us understand that disconnect between talking about human rights and a president who says he's not going to lecture.

NIKKI HALEY: You know, it's interesting. Everyone wants to try and create a divide because I'm speaking out on human rights and humanitarian issues. And the president may not mention it, but we're on the same team. And so he's very aware that I'm outspoken on human rights. And he's very aware I'm outspoken on the need for humanitarian assistance.

And he's been supportive of that. The U.S. is always going to speak out on human rights. There are times we can work with countries. And there are times when we see human rights issues that we're going to call them out on it. But we don't have to say it's going to be definitely one way or the other.

We have to have conversations with our counterparts. We have to have relationships with them. And we want to try and get along with them as much as we can. But when they go against our values, we are going to say something. That's just who we are as a country. That's what we've always been great at.

JOHN DICKERSON: I think the question is – when the president speaks, obviously he speaks with the loudest voice in American policy. And goes to Saudi Arabia and says, "I'm not going to lecture," and doesn't raise the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, the message that's sent is if America needs something from a country, it's not going to talk about human rights so much. That also would apply to China. And so that's the message people get when the president says, "I'm not going to lecture."

NIKKI HALEY: Well, I am going to Geneva this next week. And I'm going to the Human Rights Council. And that's one of the things that I'm going to talk about, is the need for the Human Rights Council to actually deal with human rights. We've got countries on the Human Rights Council right now like Venezuela and Cuba.

And what these actors do is they get on the council so that the finger's never pointed to them. As much that has happened with Venezuela with the, with the deaths that we've had, with the injuries that we've had, with the political prisoners that have been in place, not once has the Human Rights Council called on Venezuela.

Well, that's because they sit on the council. And so we do care about human rights. And that's why I'm going to Geneva. That's why I'm going to be talking about it. And that's why I'm going to tell them if the U.S. is going to be a part of the Human Rights Council, then the Human Rights Council has to have credibility.

JOHN DICKERSON: Another member of the Human Rights Council is Saudi Arabia. A lot of people criticize its beheadings, its lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia. Would you put it in the same category as Venezuela as you just described it – using the Human Rights Council as a whitewash?

NIKKI HALEY: We don't support Saudi Arabia when it comes to human rights. And they know that we don't condone some of the things that they do. We'll always be vocal about that.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Ambassador Nikki Haley, thanks so much for being with us.

NIKKI HALEY: Okay. Thanks so much, John.

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