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Trump's UN Ambassador Nominee Says Russia Cannot Be Trusted

By VOA News January 18, 2017

In one of several U.S. Senate confirmation hearings Wednesday for top posts in Donald Trump's administration, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations nominee Nikki Haley said the U.S. cannot trust Russia.

"I don't think we can trust them," Haley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. But Haley, who is governor of South Carolina, left open the possibility of cooperating with Russia on issues of mutual interest.

"We do need their help with ISIS and with some other threats that we all share," she added.

Haley's expressed mistrust of Russia appears to contrast with the position of the incoming president, who repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin during and after his presidential campaign.

Haley's position on the creation of a national registry for Muslims residing in the U.S. also differ's from the president-elect's.

"I don't think there should be any registry based on religion," she said.

Haley also was critical of President Barack Obama's administration for allowing the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israel. U.S.-Israeli relations reached a low point last month when the Obama administration abstained from voting on a U.N. resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

Haley's testified the U.N. is "often at odds with American national interests" and the "U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel."

Commerce pick

Trump's choice for Commerce Secretary, billionaire Wilbur Ross, said nations that do not trade fairly should be "severely punished."

Speaking before the Senate Commerce Committee, Ross called China the "most protectionist" country in the world. Ross also said China talks about fair trade, but its practices fall short of its rhetoric.

Ross told senators that he is not anti-trade, but favors "sensible" trade that benefits U.S. workers and companies.

If confirmed by the Senate, Ross is expected to play a larger-than-usual role in U.S. trade issues. He said examining trade policy with Canada and Mexico will be a "very early topic."

Ross, the 79-year-old chairman of a private equity firm, is known in financial circles as the "king of bankruptcy" for buying and restoring distressed companies to profitability.

After developing a specialty as a banker in bankruptcy and corporate restructuring, Ross launched W.L. Ross in 2000 and earned part of his fortune by investing in troubled factories in the industrial U.S. Midwest, sometimes generating profits by limiting employee benefits.

Earlier this week, Ross agreed with the Office of Government Ethics to divorce himself from his business affairs. Ross will divest from 40 businesses and investments within 90 days of being confirmed, and he will divest from another 40 within 180 days.

The president-elect has been at odds with the head of the ethics agency over his refusal to divest himself of his business empire. Trump has said he will instead turn control of his business affairs to his sons.

HHS, EPA nominees

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee questions Trump's pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services about the impact of Trump's plans to replace President Barack Obama's health care law, which provides medical insurance for about 20 million people.

Congressman Tom Price, who is an orthopedic surgeon, drafted his own plan to replace the law. An independent analysis concluded Price's plan would have saved taxpayers money, but it also would have covered fewer people.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, faces tough questioning by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about his ties to the energy industry. Pruitt is a climate change skeptic, who as Oklahoma's top prosecutor has sued more than a dozen times the agency he has been nominated to lead.

When he first became Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt eliminated the unit responsible for protecting the state's natural resources.

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