Nikki Haley will leave her job as US ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year, President Donald Trump said at the White House on Tuesday.
Trump said Haley told him six months ago she wanted a break after spending two years in the post. “She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump said.
Haley is a former governor of South Carolina who has repeatedly deflected speculation that she might harbour presidential aspirations of her own. “It has been the honor of a lifetime,” she said in the Oval Office, thanking Trump.
“No, I am not running in 2020,” she said. She would campaign for Trump, she added.
Haley’s decision startled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence, officials said. Trump teased an announcement less than 15 minutes before his appearance with Haley, after news organizations began reporting she would resign.
Her resignation was first reported by Axios. Several senior White House aides wondered about the timing of her decision, weeks before midterm congressional elections. Trump said he’d name a successor in two to three weeks or sooner.
One potential replacement is Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner Dina Powell, a former Trump adviser who left the White House earlier this year, two people familiar with the matter said.
Haley has been a strong advocate of Trump’s foreign policy. On her first day as UN ambassador she warned, “for those that don’t have our back, we’re taking names. We will make points to respond to that accordingly.”
She’s been one of the more effective members of Trump’s cabinet. As UN envoy, she was credited with rallying the Security Council to ramp up sanctions on North Korea as it increased its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests last year. Those sanctions are now under strain, but the administration says they forced Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table.
US ambassadors to the UN typically serve short terms. Haley will have served longer than five of the last 10 people who held the job.
After a frosty relationship with Rex Tillerson, Trump’s first secretary of state, she and Rex Tillerson’s successor, Mike Pompeo, often exchanged mutual praise.