nikki haley

Nikki Haley to Resign As Ambassador to the United Nations

The former South Carolina governor had become a bit of a star in the Trump foreign policy firmament. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In a surprise development, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tendered her resignation today, as first reported by Axios’s White House reporter Jonathan Swan. As speculation spread about the odd timing of this announcement (she’s not actually leaving until the end of the year), the president held a press availability with Haley in the Oval Office. There was a lot of mutual billing and cooing and denials that anything strange was afoot. The peculiarity of the event was perhaps captured by the fact the Haley felt constrained to go out of her way to deny any interest in running against Trump in 2020.

The 46-year-old former governor of South Carolina has been the subject of much speculation about a possible future position on a national political ticket. But there are at present no open or Democratic-held statewide positions in South Carolina she could run for, and if she’s in line for a different administration position, it would normally be announced along with her resignation. Trump did say she had indicated to him some time ago that she might want “a break” from her U.N. duties. He also said that she was welcome to return to the administration later, and would have her pick of positions. But there was no explanation at all as to why a resignation that is effective on December 31 needed to be announced on October 9.

The display of Trump–Haley affection is likely motivated by earlier incidents in which she was said to have been in conflict with the White House on such issues as possible sanctions against Russia over its behavior in Syria, while navigating the tricky politics of a fractious administration with many foreign policy viewpoints. But while that might explain the tone of the event, it doesn’t explain its timing or logic.

Guy Benson of the conservative Townhall sorted through various explanations (including possible ethics charges, and a far-fetched scenario whereby Trump is about to fire Jeff Sessions and replace him with Lindsey Graham, making a South Carolina Senate seat open for Haley), but finds none of them especially plausible. Still another possibility is that Trump knew Haley wanted to leave, and really wants to give the gig to someone else as quickly as possible. In that connection, another comment by Haley immediately drew attention:

Could Kushner — or perhaps even his wife, Ivanka — be in line for a promotion? There’s no telling. But something in this story doesn’t add up.

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Nikki Haley to Resign As Ambassador to the United Nations