Nikki Haley grilled over's Ukraine conduct, truthfulness

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump’s July call with the leader of Ukraine, but said that “it’s never a good practice for us to ask a foreign country to investigate an American. It's just not a good practice.

“Having said that, there’s no insistence on that call, there are no demands on that call, it is a conversation between two presidents that’s casual in nature,” Haley said in an interview on "Today" with NBC News' Savannah Guthrie.

According to the White House record of Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkiy, Trump asked Zelenskiy for a "favor," suggesting the country probe a debunked conspiracy theory about Democrats and the 2016 election and the Biden family. The call is at the center of the House's impeachment inquiry.

Haley contended that it was appropriate for Trump to ask Ukraine to probe "corruption."

"Okay, but the corruption mentioned by the president here has to do with Joe Biden and the DNC server," Guthrie said. "Those are the two very specific examples."

"An American should want to know the answer of, 'Did Biden pressure the prosecutor to, you know, to do what he did?' And I think there's a real question there. You can question the president, but you also have to question what Biden did," Haley said.

Trump and his allies have pushed a theory that Biden acted improperly as vice president when he called on Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, threatening to hold about $1 billion in aid over the country. Shokin had been investigating Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company Biden's son Hunter sat on the board of. But press accounts say that probe had gone long dormant by the time Biden had pushed for Shokin's ouster, and the removal of that prosecutor was the aim of a number of countries and international bodies. Shokin was alleged of ignoring corruption in Ukraine, not pursuing it.

As Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., put it in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, what Biden had asked for was done for the benefit of U.S. foreign policy with the backing of the international community. Democrats have alleged Trump was seeking investigations that would prove politically beneficial to himself by directing a pressure campaign that included freezing millions in Congress-approved military aid that Ukraine depended on to counter Russian aggression.

In the interview, Guthrie also pressed Haley on Trump's fitness for office and her claims that top officials sought to undermine the president.

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FILE-In this Monday, Nov. 26, 2018 file photo, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters. Haley is moving back to her native South Carolina, re-establishing a home base and also fueling speculation that a return to politics is next on her to-do list. The 47-year-old former South Carolina governor, who left office in 2017 to join the Trump administration, closed Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 on a home on Kiawah Island, according to Alex Malloy, a spokeswoman for Kiawah Island Real Estate.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Former Ambassador to the U.N Nikki Haley speaks at the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, at Washington Convention Center, in Washington, Monday, March 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Nikki Haley headshot, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, graphic element on gray

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on her nomination to be to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, nominee to be the US ambassador to the United Nations, walks through the Capitol to the Senate subway on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Delegates pose for pictures with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) on the floor during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 20, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S.Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at the Federalist Society, 2016 National Lawyers Convention at the Mayflower Hotel, on November 18, 2016 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley delivers remarks at the Federalist Society 2016 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, U.S., November 18, 2016.

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (L) and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio react on stage during a campaign event in Chapin, South Carolina February 17, 2016. Haley announced her endorsement of Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination.

(REUTERS/Chris Keane)

Escorted by staff and security, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) moves from one television interview to another across from the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Haley called for the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, if he is found guilty of murdering nine people during a prayer meeting at the church Wednesday night. Among the dead is the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church which, according to the National Park Service, is the oldest black congregation in America south of Baltimore.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, right, greets U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week.

(Photo by Paul Zoeller-Pool/Getty Images)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley speaks to press outside the Emanuel AME Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.US police arrested a white high school dropout Thursday suspected of carrying out a gun massacre at one of America's oldest black churches, the latest deadly assault to fuel simmering racial tensions. Authorities detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead during a Bible study class on Wednesday evening.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Escorted by staff and security, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) moves from one television interview to another across from the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Haley called for the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, if he is found guilty of murdering nine people during a prayer meeting at the church Wednesday night. Among the dead is the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church which, according to the National Park Service, is the oldest black congregation in America south of Baltimore.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley holds a news conference with fellow members of the Republican Governors Association at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. Republican and Democratic governors met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday during the last day of the National Governors Association winter meeting.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley waves on stage during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Former Florida Governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush walks with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley during a visit to Sistercare, a non-profit that aids domestic violence victims and their children on March 17, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Bush announced in December that he 'actively explore' a presidential run in 2016. He is currently on a two day tour through South Carolina and will attend several fundraising events.

(Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Nikki Haley applauds the Claflin College Choir after their performance during her inauguration as governor of South Carolina, Wednesday, January 12, 2011, in Columbia, South Carolina.

(Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images)

US Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican candidate for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) smiles along with her husband Michael Haley (L) and daughter Rena (C) as they watch the runoff election results at the Columbia Sheraton on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks to the media prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 12, 2012 in Darlington, South Carolina.

(Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives a birthday cake to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during a campaign rally at Charleston Area Convention Center on January 20, 2012 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Romney continues to campaign for votes in South Carolina ahead of their primary on January 21.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Nikki Haley speaks to supporters as she comes onto stage during an election party for Republican South Carolina Governor candidate Nikki Haley at the State Museum on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

Republican candidate for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) smiles along with her husband Michael Haley (L) and daughter Rena (C) as they watch the runoff election results at the Columbia Sheraton on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

South Carolina State Rep. Nikki Haley from Lexington, pictured on May 14, 2009, is launching a bid to become South Carolina's first female governor.

(Photo by Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JUNE 22: Nikki Haley

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Haley addressed a portion of her new book, "With All Due Respect," where she detailed a meeting she had with Trump after that July 2018 press conference, in which the president appeared to side with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies' determination that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

In the meeting Haley recalled, she told Trump he did not do well alongside Putin, a point that surprised Trump because, in Haley's retelling, she was the only person to tell him such.

Guthrie pressed Haley on that claim.

"Really? You were the only person?" Guthrie asked. "I mean that news conference was globally condemned because of that moment, but you were the only person in the administration who said, hey, that didn’t look so great?"

"That’s what he told me," Haley responded. "I mean when I said I wanted to meet with him, and I go through that in the book, when I said I wanted to meet with him, and I said 'look, this sounded soft.' And he said 'really?' John Kelly was in the room with me when I had this meeting, and he looked at John and he said 'all of you guys said I did great.'"

Guthrie pointed to separate claims from Haley's book, in which she said Kelly, the then-White House chief of staff, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, had sought to undermine Trump's decisions in order to save the country, and asked how she could explain Kelly offering Trump such a positive assessment of his meeting with Putin in light of those assertions.

"You ask him those questions," Haley said, expressing support for Trump's policies toward Russia. "But the issue was that on that topic, no one had said anything to him, and I thought it was hugely important, and you’ll see later, he comes out, and he comes out much stronger on Russia."

Haley also told Guthrie that she did tell Trump of what she described as Kelly and Tillerson's insubordination — an effort to undermine the president that Haley claims they recruited her to be a part of.

Guthrie concluded her interview by asking Haley whether Trump is honest and fit for office. Haley said she never doubted Trump's mental acuity.

"In every instance that I dealt with him, he was truthful, he listened, and he was great to work with," she said.

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