Nikki Haley (AP/Cliff Owen)

Nikki Haley resigns as UN ambassador — with President Donald Trump by her side

The former governor of South Carolina draws the curtains on her tenure at the Trump White House


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Shira Tarlo
October 9, 2018 2:38PM (UTC)

Exactly one month before the midterm election, President Donald Trump announced the surprise resignation of his UN ambassador, Nikki Haley. 

The morning after a highly unusual swearing-in ceremony to celebrate the confirmation of his second Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, cementing a conservative majority on the nation's highest court, the president announced a surprise meeting with his ambassador to the United Nations.

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Trump announced the break with Haley by his side from the White House's Oval Office.

"I wanted to do this because Nikki Haley, Ambassador the UN, has been very special to me. She has done an incredible job, she is a fantastic person, very importantly, but she also is somebody that gets it," he said.

He said Haley told him six months ago that at the end of the year she "wants to take a little time off. I want to take a little break." Haley will be leaving his administration at the end of the year, the president announced.

"She's doing a fantastic job, and we've done a fantastic job together," the president continued. "We've solved a lot of problems and we're in the process of solving a lot of problems."

He then went on to list Haley's accomplishments and praise the work she's done in regards to foreign policy in North Korea, China, Russia, India, Iran and Israel.

During the press conference, Haley called serving the country as Ambassador to the UN an "honor of a lifetime."

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"Look at what has happened in two years for the United States on foreign policy. Now the United States is respected," Haley continued. "Countries may not like what we do but they respect what we do. They know if we say we're going to do something, we follow through."

"The U.S. is strong again and the U.S. is strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud," she said.

Haley went on to thank First Lady Melania Trump; Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior White House adviser who she called a "hidden genius"; and Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter and senior adviser.

She said Jared and Ivanka "do a lot of things behind the scenes that I wish more people knew about, because we're a better country because they're in this administration."

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Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, was easily confirmed four days after Trump's inauguration last year.

In September, Haley penned an op-ed denying writing the anonymous New York Times' anonymous op-ed, titled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration."

"I don't agree with the president on everything. When there is disagreement, there is a right way and a wrong way to address it. I pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person," Haley wrote.

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"Like my colleagues in the Cabinet and on the National Security Council, I have very open access to the president," Haley continued. "He does not shut out his advisers, and he does not demand that everyone agree with him. I can talk to him most any time, and I frequently do."

"If I disagree with something and believe it is important enough to raise with the president, I do it. And he listens," she wrote.

Throughout her tenure, Haley has occasionally broken with the administration. As the White House defended the president from 16 allegations of sexual harassment and assault, Haley said the women who accuse the president of sexual misconduct "should be heard."

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"They should be heard, and they should be dealt with," Haley said at the time. "And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up."

Haley, who was the first female governor of South Carolina, applauded the women who came forward.

"I'm proud of their strength. I'm proud of their courage. And I think that the idea that this is happening, I think it will start to bring a conscience to the situation, not just in politics, but in, you know, we’ve seen in Hollywood and in every industry," Haley said. "And I think the time has come."

Trump has previously undermined Haley over the issue of adding further economic sanctions to Russia in response to its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's engagement in a chemical weapons attack against his own people. After Haley proclaimed that new sanctions were being prepared and would be announced by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Trump complained to his national security advisers later that day that he was uncomfortable with applying additional pressure on Russia.

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In April, The New York Times reported, "Republicans close to the White House whisper about the prospect of an alliance between Ms. Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, possibly to run as a ticket in 2020."

Following news of her resignation, political pundits and observers began to speculate whether Haley will pursue a presidential bid in 2020. Haley swiftly shut down those rumors on Wednesday during the press conference with Trump, saying, "For all of you that are going to ask about 2020: No, I am not running for 2020. I can promise what I'll be doing is campaigning for this one and I look forward to supporting the president in the next election."


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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