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Nikki Haley Releases New Memoir: 'With All Due Respect'

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Nikki Haley speaks bluntly. She was serving as United Nations ambassador under President Trump when a colleague suggested she was confused. Haley responded, with all due respect, I don't get confused. Her new memoir is titled "With All Due Respect." And in it, Haley makes a notable claim. Her memoir says that other top officials in the Trump administration tried to recruit Haley to block what they saw as the president's worst impulses and, quote, "save the country." Haley sat down with Mary Louise Kelly of All Things Considered, who's in our studios. Good morning.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What does Haley say about these colleagues who tried to block the president?

KELLY: She says that two of them in particular, Rex Tillerson, the then-secretary of state and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff at the time, tried to recruit her in an effort to undermine President Trump. She told me they framed this as trying to save the country because they knew better than he did what was best for the country. We have reached out to Tillerson and Kelly. We have not, at this hour, heard back to our request for comment. But she is framing this as going beyond offering your best advice to try to walk the president back from a bad decision as...

INSKEEP: Yeah, it's normal for staff people to say...

KELLY: Indeed. She's...

INSKEEP: ...Mr. President, that's a bad idea.

KELLY: ...Framing this as thwarting and subverting what the president would have wanted to do.

INSKEEP: Well, the people that she identifies as doing that, especially Tillerson and Kelly, are gone. Many of the people who were seen as pushing back hard against the president and limiting his worst impulses are gone. And now the president faces an impeachment inquiry for the way that he demanded investigations in Ukraine.

KELLY: Yes, he does.

INSKEEP: So what does Haley think of that?

KELLY: I asked Haley about that, although it's obviously outside the scope of her book and her tenure at the U.N. She says she's in touch with the president - that she saw him last week, talked to him. I asked her view on the members of his administration - the current members of his administration who are defying this White House directive and going and testifying in the impeachment inquiry. And I also asked her, just where do you land on the president's behavior? I want to play you, actually - this is a longish clip, at a minute or so, of what she told me.

NIKKI HALEY: I go to the facts. And what I know is from the transcript as well as what we have heard is, did the president ask the Ukrainian president to look into the prosecutor in the invest - and have an investigation on the Bidens? Yes, he asked that. Do I think that is good? I think it is not a good practice for us ever to ask a foreign country to investigate an American. I don't. But did the Ukrainians call for an investigation? No. Did the President hold up aid? He released the aid, as he should. And so for that - you know, impeachment's a serious issue, and I just - I don't see it as impeachable.

KELLY: You're coming down on the side that this isn't behavior you would have condoned or agree with, but you do not see it as an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor.

HALEY: Well, I see it as that. But also, I just strongly believe that it's arrogant of Congress to turn around and take this from the American people in an election year. The American people should decide what they think is right and wrong. For Congress or Pelosi and Schumer to sit there and say they are going to go and decide this for the American people, it's just wrong. And I think that, you know, we have to be able to give the facts, be as transparent as possible with the American people and let them decide on Election Day.

KELLY: And Steve, I pointed out to Nikki Haley that had those Democrats been there listening, they would probably argue that they are doing the job they were elected to do by holding this impeachment inquiry...

INSKEEP: Can I...

KELLY: ...And we went from there.

INSKEEP: Can I note that she is criticizing and defending the president at the same time?

KELLY: She's very good at that. She walks quite a tightrope. In our interview, for example, she criticized how President Trump has handled Vladimir Putin of Russia. She criticized the very recent decision by him to pull U.S. troops back from the U.S.-Syria border. But she said, look. He's the President. Those are his decisions to make. She said she's going to be out campaigning for him in 2020. She says she is not running. She'll be campaigning for Trump. And she told me their relationship is one of respect, which prompted me to ask - is your respect for Donald Trump the man, or is it for the office of the president of the United States? And I want you just to hear the very top line of her answer.

HALEY: Oh, my loyalty and respect is to our country.

KELLY: It was very interesting where her answer turned from there. And I will say that there's more of that part of our conversation this afternoon on All Things Considered.

INSKEEP: We'll be listening. But let me ask what she thinks of another memoir of White House service - of administration service by this anonymous person who says they have been resisting the president inside the administration.

KELLY: Her top line take to the anonymous book was that whoever wrote it should voice their concerns directly to President Trump. And if they can't persuade him and they can't live with it, they should quit. She also takes on one more explosive claim from that book, which was that last year Trump aides considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the President. She says - didn't happen. I was talking to everybody in the Cabinet. I never heard a word, never even a whisper. It never came up.

INSKEEP: Mary Louise, thanks so much.

KELLY: Y'all are welcome.

INSKEEP: Mary Louise Kelly of All Things Considered giving us a little taste of her interview with Ambassador Nikki Haley about Haley's new book, which is called "With All Due Respect." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.