Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, has just announced that she will officially resign at the end of the year — leaving the US administration devoid of one of its more hawkish and mainstream Republican voices.
The move came as quite a surprise to many both in the administration and outside it, and it’s still unclear why exactly she decided to resign.
“I‘m a believer in term limits,” Haley told reporters at the White House, signaling why she will leave after two years as UN ambassador. “I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job.”
But she’s certainly leaving the administration on a high note, with her relationship with President Donald Trump seemingly stronger than ever. Trump praised Haley during a brief meeting at the White House Tuesday to announce her departure.
“She has done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump told reporters. “We’ve solved a lot of problems and in the process of solving a lot of problems.”
Haley said her UN job was “has been an honor of a lifetime” and rattled off some of her accomplishments at the organization, such as helping to rally support for putting economic pressure on North Korea and lambasting Syria for human rights violations. “Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” she said.
Haley was widely regarded as one of the strongest members of President Trump’s foreign policy team. She used much of her time at the UN to criticize Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to champion human rights, even at times when Trump himself would not. In effect, she was a traditional voice in the midst of an untraditional GOP administration.
But she toed Trump’s line when she needed to. For example, she became one of the administration’s top spokespeople for its hardline policies toward Iran. Last December, she stood in front of a missile at the UN, claiming it was proof that Tehran had delivered weapons to rebels fighting in the Yemen war.
She also oversaw America’s gradual withdrawal from the UN, pulling out of the organization’s Human Rights Council and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, a program that administers aid to millions of Palestinian refugees. And when countries said they wouldn’t support America’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem in Israel, she vowed last December that the US would “take names of those who vote to reject Jerusalem recognition.”
Still, in many ways she was the anti-Trump, touching on issues he rarely mentions. The question now is who, if anyone, will push a more traditional GOP foreign policy from within the administration.
If Haley has it her way, it might be her — as president.
Will Haley run for president now?
One of Washington’s worst-kept secrets is that Haley, the former South Carolina governor, wants to be president.
She is, after all, an experienced GOP politician. As the daughter of Indian immigrants, she stood out in an administration run chiefly by white men. Telegenic and poised, she has a knack for the limelight that stands in sharp contrast with many in the administration.
And her almost two years striking a different foreign policy tone than Trump may set her up for future electoral success.
“The fact that she’s been so much more critical of Russia than the rest of the administration allows her to get some distance from the administration — and that feels like something that’s quite calculated,” a former senior official UN official told Vox in August 2017. “It seems like she’s positioning herself for a future run.”
Now that Haley is out of her UN office, she’s free to pursue the Oval Office. But she explicitly told reporters that she won’t run in 2020, and will instead campaign for Trump.
However, she said nothing about a 2024 run.