White House officials surprised by Haley resignation

Donald Trump praises US ambassador to UN, who is to leave her post by end of the year

Nikki Haley with US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday, where they announced her resignation as US ambassador to the UN. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Nikki Haley with US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday, where they announced her resignation as US ambassador to the UN. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

 

The United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, announced her resignation on Tuesday in an unexpected move that took even senior White House officials by surprise.

Ms Haley, one of the few women in the President Donald Trump’s administration, said that while it had been “the honour of a lifetime” to serve as UN ambassador, she would step down by the end of the year.

“I think you have to be selfless enough to know when to step aside and allow someone else to do the job,” she said, adding that she was not leaving due to personal reasons. Mr Trump will name a successor “in the next two or three weeks - maybe sooner”, he said.

Mr Trump said Ms Haley had told him six months ago that she was considering leaving the post. As the two jointly announced her departure in the Oval Office, he was effusive in his praise for her.

“Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations, has been very special to me. She’s done an incredible job. She’s a fantastic person,” he said, expressing hope that she would work again for the administration in another capacity. “You can have your pick [of jobs]and would be supporting Mr Trump.

The former South Carolina governor is seen as a rising star within Republican circles. While she was an early critic of Donald Trump, she appeared to maintain a good working relationship with the president and was seen as a stabilising presence in an administration that has often pursued an incoherent foreign policy.

Highlighting what the United States has achieved in terms of foreign policy since Mr Trump’s inauguration, she said America was respected again. “Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do. They know that if we say we’re going to do something, we follow it through.”

She said that the United States had tackled the “anti-Israel bias” at the United Nations, praising the “strength and courage” of Mr Trump for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “We will put our embassy where we want to put our embassy,” she said.

Newcomer

She also praised Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, who both work for the president, describing Mr Kushner as a “hidden genius”.

“They 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,” she said.

A newcomer to foreign policy when she was appointed by Mr Trump as UN ambassador last year, Ms Haley entered the House of Representatives as a member of Congress for South Carolina in 2004. She then became governor of the state in 2010.

She rose to national prominence in 2016 after she ordered the confederate flag – a controversial symbol with strong links to slavery – to be removed from the state capitol following the shooting dead of nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston.

She initially opposed Mr Trump when he ran as the Republican nominee for president, supporting both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Though she has always insisted that she enjoys a strong working relationship with the president, she has placed herself at odds with him on occasion. In December last year she said that women who had accused Mr Trump of sexual misconduct “should be heard”.

“They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,” Ms Haley said. “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.”