By Noah Bierman and Tracy Wilkinson
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced her resignation Tuesday in a move that President Donald Trump said had been in the works for months, but which caught many White House officials by surprise.
Trump, making the announcement at the White House, told reporters that Haley had informed him about six months ago that at the end of a two-year period on the job, she’d want to take a break. The resignation will take effect at the end of the year, Trump and Haley said.
“She’s done a fantastic job, and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump said, adding that he’d be happy to have her back in another position.
Haley’s departure marked one of the rare examples of a senior Trump administration official making a graceful exit. The president heaped praise on her, saying she brought glamour and importance to the position. He allowed her to address reporters from the Oval Office, a departure from the abrupt tweets Trump often uses to announce high-level staff changes. Trump said he would name a successor within the next two or three weeks.
Haley, in turn, thanked Trump and praised members of his family before mentioning her own family. She also moved quickly to squelch speculation about her political ambitions.
“No, I am not running in 2020,” she said, adding she would campaign for Trump’s re-election.
Haley, who called herself a “lucky girl,” said she was leaving because she needed to take time out after an intense six years as governor of South Carolina which included a hurricane, a major flood and mass shootings directly followed by two years at the United Nations.
She said her departure matched her belief that those in government should have term limits. She has served at the U.N. since the start of Trump’s presidency.
Haley also praised the effectiveness of Trump’s foreign policy efforts, which have drawn widespread criticism.
“Now, the United States is respected,” she said. “Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do.” A recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center showed public opinion toward the United States has plummeted in many countries since Trump took office.
Haley cited Trump’s tough trade policy, his decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal and the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which infuriated many allies and regional partners.
Trump, she said, is “showing the rest of the world we will put our embassy where we want to put our embassy.”
She also took credit for cutting the U.S. contribution to the U.N. budget, characterizing the move as moving the organization toward more efficiency.
Haley achieved a rare feat in the Trump administration: maintaining her personal popularity despite the president’s polarizing politics. An April Quinnipiac University poll found 63 percent of voters approved of her job performance, compared with 17 percent who disapproved. That included a majority, 55 percent, of Democrats.
The 46-year-old child of Indian immigrants has been viewed as a rising star within the Republican Party and is widely believed to harbor ambitions for higher office. Before Trump took over the party with his nationalist politics aimed at the GOP’s white male base, Haley endorsed his primary opponent, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who wanted to push the party toward a more multicultural future.
Conservatives, even those who are suspicious of Trump’s “America First” policy, have tended to give Haley the benefit of the doubt, even as she carries out his agenda.
She has been more outspoken in calling out Russian aggression than Trump, for example. She also often sides even more strongly with Israel than Trump, who has pushed U.S. policy away from its officially neutral stance on the conflict with the Palestinians. She once threatened to “take names” of countries that have opposed American policy in Israel.
“Nikki Haley has been a clear, consistent and powerful voice for America’s interests and democratic principles on the world stage,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a tweet. “She challenged friend and foe to be better. I am saddened that she is leaving the administration, but so grateful for her service.”