President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has resigned and will leave her post by the end of the year.
Sitting side-by-side in the Oval Office, Trump praised Haley as a “fantastic person” who has “done an incredible job” and said he would gladly welcome her back into his administration down the line.
“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.
“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,'” he added.
Trump said Haley has “been very special to me” and praised her as “somebody that gets it.”
Trump also said Haley could have her “pick” of administration posts if she ever decides she wants to rejoin his administration.
“We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose — hopefully you’ll be coming back at some point but in a different capacity. You can have your pick,” Trump said as Haley smiled broadly.
The President said he plans to name a successor for the US’s top diplomatic post at the United Nations in two to three weeks.
Haley said, “it has been an honor of a lifetime” serving as UN ambassador, but that it was time to depart the administration.
“There’s no personal reason,” she said, explaining her rationale for departing. “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,” she said.
She praised Trump’s foreign policy, saying “the US is respected.”
“Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” she said.
She also praised members of Trump’s team, including senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
“Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands,” she said. “We’re a better country because they’re in the administration.”
Haley sought to tamp down speculation she may challenge President Trump in two years.
“No, I am not running for 2020,” Haley said. She raised the topic unprompted, saying she knew it would likely arise.
“I can promise you what I’ll be doing is campaigning for this one,” Haley said.
She said she was stepping aside after almost a decade on the national stage, including her tenure as South Carolina governor.
“It’s been 8 years of intense time,” she said. “I’m a believer in term limits.
A senior State Department official said Haley told her staff this morning.
A source familiar with the matter said Haley’s resignation caught national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by surprise.
Axios was first to report the news that Haley resigned.
The former South Carolina governor was tapped as ambassador to the UN following Trump’s election win despite supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in her state’s all-important 2016 presidential primary and later backing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
When asked if she would take the job by then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, Haley was intrigued but had some conditions.
First, she told Trump she wanted to be a member of the Cabinet and the National Security Council, privileges enjoyed by her predecessors in the Obama administration. Perhaps most importantly, she wanted the latitude to be herself, to say what she wanted.
“I said ‘I am a policy girl, I want to be part of the decision-making process,'” she told CNN in a 2017 interview, recalling the conversation with Trump. “He said, ‘done.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to be a wallflower or a talking head. I want to be able to speak my mind.’ He said, ‘That is why I asked you to do this.’ In all honesty, I didn’t think they were going to take me up on everything I asked for. And they gave me all that. So how do you turn that down?”
During her more than a year-and-a-half on the job, she has repeatedly spoken her mind, whether it’s going further on human rights than many of her administration colleagues or denouncing racism at home.
-Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak and Elise Labott for CNN
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