WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump accepted the resignation of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday, an unexpected departure for one of the president’s longest-serving top aides.
Haley, a former South Carolina governor who was confirmed just days after Trump’s inauguration, announced her decision during a hastily scheduled meeting with Trump in the Oval Office. She said she would leave by the end of the year.
“She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump said.
Initially a critic of Trump, Haley helped shepherd in the administration’s tougher stance at the United Nations, including Trump's decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year. She is also among the most prominent women in Trump's Cabinet.
"The U.S. is strong again," Haley said in the Oval Office. "Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do."
Haley, widely considered a possible candidate for higher office, also sometimes broke ranks with Trump. In the days leading up to this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York, Haley indicated Trump’s speech before the Security Council would be focused on Iran. White House officials later dismissed that idea, saying the address would focus on controlling weapons of mass destruction.
Tuesday, Haley rejected talk of a presidential campaign and said she intends to support Trump for re-election.
“No. I am not running in 2020," she said.
The daughter of immigrants from India, Haley was a South Carolina legislator who rode a wave of Tea Party support to win the governor's race in 2010.
She won re-election in 2014, but cut her second term short to join Trump's diplomatic team. Republicans in South Carolina, a key state for Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries, urged Trump to recruit Haley, who was also discussed for the secretary of State slot.
But while she's one of Trump's longest-serving aides, there has been friction between the two.
In April, White House aides criticized Haley for getting ahead of the administration in announcing Russia sanctions. Haley, meanwhile, bristled at top economic adviser Larry Kudlow's suggestion that the UN ambassador had "momentary confusion" over the issue.
"With all due respect, I don't get confused," Haley replied in a statement.
Haley also had to take the unusual step of denying in public that she had an affair with Trump, after the publication of Michael Wolf's book on the administration, "Fire and Fury."
Haley sometimes clashed with Trump’s first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. But she was in sync with Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, a former conservative congressman and and previous CIA director, as well as National Security Adviser John Bolton, perhaps the most hawkish member of Trump’s foreign policy team.
She also publicly aired her differences with Trump over his support for Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who had been accused of inappropriate sexual advances on teenage girls. She said women who accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct “should be heard.”