Timing of the announcement raised TV news eyebrows, coming as it does just weeks before the midterm election though Haley, widely regarded as a stabilizing influence on Trump, told reporters at a pop-up White House presser she will stay until the end of the year.
Also among those taken by surprise: National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Also her staff, who did not get the news until this morning, according to Axios, which first reported Haley’s exit.
President Donald Trump, however, insisted there was nothing to see here, pushing the narrative that Haley raised the idea with him six months ago, though TV news outlets reported she gave him a heads-up last week. In support of his storyline Trump staged today’s White House send-off, though her exit is a couple months off, while telling White House reporters he will name her replacement in the next two or three weeks. CNN speculated Haley’s replacement might be First Daughter Ivanka Trump.
“I wanted to do this because Nikki Haley has been very special to me,” Trump told reporters of his pop-up presser, crediting Haley with making the gig “a more glamorous position than it was two years ago.”
“She has done an incredible job,” Trump said, calling her “somebody that gets it.”
“She told me, probably six months ago, that maybe at end of year [she] wanted to take a little time off. She’d been a very successful governor of South Carolina for eight years and this has possibly been more intense and dangerous, and a lot of things.”
“Hopefully you’ll be coming aback to me at some point, maybe in a different capacity. You can take your pick,” Trump beamed at her.
Haley, in turn, called her tenure at the UN “the honor of a lifetime,” saying, “I have been such a lucky girl to lead the state that raised me, and serve the country I love so much.”
Haley gave no satisfactory answer to questions as to why she was exiting, instead responding that she’s a believer in term limits, etc.
Haley also made a point of thanking the First Family, though she confined her praise to Ivanka and spouse. “I can’t say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka,” Haley gushed, calling Kushner a “hidden genius in a way no one understands,” and Ivanka a “good friend” who has done “a lot behind the scenes.”
“We are a better country because they are in this administration,” Haley enthused.
“So, maybe Jared Kushner or Ivanka is going to be the new UN ambassador,” USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page responded, on MSNBC.
Susan Page, D.C. Bureau Chief for USA Today, said on MSNBC shortly after the presser, “So maybe Jared Kushner or Ivanka is going to be the new U.N. ambassador, with that big endorsement.”
Haley has mostly been a Trump supporter at the UN, executing Trump’s vow to exit from the UN Human Rights Council, which she described as the UN’s “greatest failure.”