U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley suddenly resigns

Haley, who's at times been both a supporter and critic of the president, reportedly "shocked" White House officials by announcing the end of her two-year tenure as a U.N. ambassador.

U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley suddenly resigns
Photo: Mark Wilson via Getty Images
  • Nikki Haley has resigned as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
  • Haley didn't offer a clear reason why she's stepping down, but said "it's time."
  • The resignation reportedly came as a surprise to many White House officials, though Trump said she first floated the idea of stepping down about six months ago.

Nikki Haley has resigned from her position as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and plans to leave the administration by the end of 2018.

In an Oval Office press briefing, President Donald Trump accepted Haley's resignation and praised her two-year tenure.

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

Haley said it's been an honor "to serve the country I love so much," and that the Trump administration's stances on foreign policy have helped the U.S. become respected in the international community.

Trump said Haley teased the idea of resigning six months ago.

"She told me probably six months ago, 'You know maybe at end of the year -- at the end of the two year period -- but by the end of the year I want to take a little time off, I want to take a break.'"

However, multiple sources reported that White House staffers and senior officials were "shocked" by the announcement. Haley, who's at times clashed with administration officials, didn't offer a clear reason for her resignation.

"There's no personal reason," she said. "It's very important for government officials to understand when it's time to step aside...I want to make sure this administration, this president, has the strongest person to fight."

Trump said he hopes Haley will return to the administration in some capacity, and that she could have her "pick" of administration posts.

(Read Haley's full resignation letter here.)

​Why did Haley resign?

Without any explicit explanation, there's only speculation about why the U.N. ambassador chose to announce her resignation just weeks ahead of the midterm elections.

The South Carolina swap

One possibility is that Haley plans to take the Senate seat of Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the state for which Haley spent six years as governor, should he replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, though Graham said he has no interest in pursuing the position. To gain the Senate seat, Haley would need the approval of South Carolina's governor, Republican Henry McMaster, according to Senate vacancy rules.

Clashes with the Trump administration

Others note that Haley has had a strained relationship with White House officials like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. CNN wrote that "Haley was outwardly very tough within the UN (and the Trump administration), she was reportedly a voice urging more moderation -- and toeing the preferred line of establishment Republicans -- in private."

Haley has also clashed with Trump himself, perhaps most visibly in April when she announced U.S. sanctions on Russia. Larry Kudlow, the Trump administration's top economic adviser, later told media there were no sanctions and that Haley was confused. Haley shot back on live TV that she doesn't "get confused."

More recently, Haley penned an opinion piece responding to an anonymous op-ed published by the New York Times in September that outlined a secret resistance inside the White House. Haley wrote:

"...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."

The treatment of sexual assault allegations has likely been one area of disagreement between Haley and the president.

"They should be heard, and they should be dealt with," Haley told CBS in December. "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.

2020 presidential run

Some have speculated that Haley could be plotting a 2020 presidential bid, though she's denied that and said she plans to campaign for Trump. Still, if Haley does indeed believe that the special counsel investigation could ruin the current administration, she'd be in a unique position to run for office, as Jennifer Rubin noted in an opinion piece for the Washington Post:

"She will then be in a position to pick up the pieces, a unifying figure not objectionable to Trump cultists or to the flock of Republicans who when things go downhill will claim they opposed Trump all along. She will be untainted and arguably the most highly credentialed challenger to Trump still within the GOP fold in 2020."

Expenses controversy

It's also worth noting that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal nonprofit watchdog group in Washington, issued a report to the State Department on Monday night asking for officials to investigate how Haley and her husband had accepted free flights from businessmen in 2017, which could constitute violations of executive branch rules on accepting gifts.

Taking a break

Despite rumors of a presidential run, it's also plausible that Haley, who's served in high-level government positions for more than a decade, simply wants to take a break from politics, possibly with the intent to rest or make more money.

"It's been eight years of intense time, and I'm a believer in term limits," Haley told reporters on Tuesday. "I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job."

Haley is close with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner

Haley praised Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in the Oval Office briefing on Tuesday.

"Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands," Ms. Haley said. "And Ivanka has been just a great friend, and 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."

Some have speculated that Trump could pick his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump to fill the role, noting Haley's positive comments and the fact that Ivanka's Twitter account recently began following many government accounts on Monday.

The New York Times noted some other possible successors, including "Dina Powell, a former deputy national security adviser to the president, and Richard A. Grenell. Mr. Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, served as spokesman for John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, when he was ambassador to the United Nation under former President George W. Bush."

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