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Nikki Haley Resigns the US Ambassadorship, Surprising the UN Community


Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, suddenly announced on Oct. 9 that she was resigning her post and leaving by the end of the year. The news seemed to have taken many people in the UN community by surprise, as ambassadors from the Netherlands, France, Sweden and others heaped praise on her personally and her work representing America at the UN. 

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, has announced she is resigning her position and leaving at the end of the year. Unlike the string of previous Cabinet members who have left the Trump administration, Haley seems to be departing on good terms with the president. Her departure was first reported by Axios on Oct. 9, the same day the White House announced the news, but some diplomats at the UN said they’d heard rumors last week about her leaving.

Overall, the reaction among diplomats at the UN to the news has been a mix of shock and praise, with many ambassadors remarking on Haley’s strong US leadership at the UN in promoting her country’s interests. Among her fellow members on the UN Security Council, several diplomats, in speaking to the media, praised Haley’s work and “friendship,” saying how they would miss her.

“She is one of the most talented representatives of the United States government I have ever worked with,” said François Delattre, the French ambassador to the UN, who was previously his country’s ambassador in Washington and earlier based in Montreal.

The Dutch ambassador, Karel van Oosterom, said it had been an “honor” to work with her and that he and his wife and Haley and her husband, Michael, are good friends. The Swedish ambassador, Olof Skoog, said that the news “came out of the blue like a flash from a clear sky, and I feel a little bit sorry about it because we’ve had a really good relationship” in the Council (see video below). Despite Haley using “very strong” words at times in public meetings, Skoog said she was a “great champion” of its inner social network.

Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador, who often clashed with Haley in public meetings in the Council, said that its members actually agree about most matters, “but you as media prefer to see the bad things about the Security Council because they are on the screens, they are sexy, you know they sell to the public.”

Indeed, Haley is considered to be highly accessible among her fellow Council members, yet her sudden departure leaves a big hole for the US at the UN, a West African diplomat noted, saying it must be embarrassing for President Trump. Another African delegate said that Haley leaving two years into her term suggests she wants to move on to other ambitions, and that the time is right to do so, given the scandals still embroiling the Trump White House.

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Another Western diplomat, who also spoke on background, thought Haley had engaged productively at the UN with the ambassadors to push the US agenda. She prospered, this person said, under difficult circumstances playing out antagonistically from the White House toward the UN. Haley was also considered by the diplomatic community at the UN to be influential in the Trump administration and to have gotten along well with her fellow Cabinet members.

Yet she was slighted several times by the White House, despite her mix of defending the Trump administration and breaking from some of its policies. One of the most obvious embarrassments for Haley was not being invited to the US celebration marking the move of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And with the newcomers to the Trump Cabinet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, Haley seemed visibly sidelined in her role at the UN.

“Now, of course, the administration will need to find a replacement for her,” said James Cunningham, a former US ambassador to the UN and now a fellow at the Atlantic Council. “There is a new team around Trump in Washington, including a national security advisor who is famously hostile toward the United Nations as an institution. It will be interesting to see how they try to position themselves. The choice of a successor will reveal how the administration views the United Nations.”

PassBlue has been reporting on Haley closely in her ambassadorship, in a column called Nikki Haley Watch, for more than one year. Our recent article examined her stances damning Iran while ignoring Israel’s illegal settlements and sniper fire on protesters in Gaza, leaving dozens of people dead. We also obtained various scoops on Haley, including her family finances and free plane trips, courtesy of South Carolina political supporters. The trips are now being investigated by a watchdog group.

Nikki Haley, second from left, with her husband, Michael Haley, recently boating in South Carolina. Haley’s husband worked side by side with her on her early, successful forays in politics in South Carolina. He is an officer with the South Carolina Army National Guard. 

The details of the news so far:

  • Axios reported that Haley discussed her resignation with US President Donald Trump last week, privately. Haley’s move shocked foreign policy officials in the administration.
  • During one event at the UN General Assembly annual opening debate, on Sept. 24, Haley seemed to have Trump’s ear but not that of Pompeo or of Bolton.
  • The announcement about Haley comes on the same day that a South Carolina paper, The State, reported that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a federal watchdog group, wants an investigation into Haley’s disclosures regarding private plane flights.  A previous complaint from the same group earned Haley an ethic reprimand in 2017. PassBlue reported on Haley’s use of such flights with South Carolina cronies in 2017.
  • In April 2018, another South Carolina paper, the Charleston Post Courier, quoted political pundit Joe Scarborough, saying he thought Haley could beat Trump in the presidential elections of 2020.
  • President Trump teased, via twitter, big news with Haley in a tweet that was very friendly in tone.

  • During the Oct. 9 press conference announcing Haley’s departure, Trump claimed that Haley brought glamour back to the position of US ambassador, that she did a “terrific job” and that many people were eager for the chance to replace her. Trump said a successor would be named in the next two or three weeks. (He said this after an awkward exchange in which he didn’t hear the question, and Haley had to state it loudly for him.) Trump said that Haley’s resignation was first discussed six months ago. He also teased another big announcement to come at his event in Iowa tonight. Haley referred to Jared Kushner as a “hidden genius that no one understands.” Kushner has a portfolio of responsibilities that include mediating peace in the Middle East, a peace plan that has never been revealed. Haley lauded Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and official adviser, and Jared Kushner for all they did behind the scenes that she wished “more people knew about.”  (Ivanka Trump attended the UN Security Council meeting on nonproliferation on Sept. 26, which her father presided at.) Trump ended the press conference telling Haley she’d been fantastic and “you’re my friend,” with an enthusiastic handshake; emphasizing that Haley is leaving on very good terms.
  • Haley, during the same press conference, denied she was running for president in 2020, claiming she would campaign for Trump instead.
  • Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, has already released a statement saying he is not interested in running for president in 2020. But Graham has been openly interested in a cabinet-level position in the White House, and Haley could be a special appointment to fill his seat in South Carolina.
  • Dina Powell, a former counselor to Trump in the White House and now working at Goldman Sachs, is rumored to be a candidate to replace Haley.

Laura E. Kirkpatrick is an editor, writer and researcher who has covered international, national and civic social enterprise and development, women’s issues and the media for Gannett Publications, ESPN and other media outlets. Based in Buffalo, N.Y., Kirkpatrick wrote PassBlue’s most popular article in 2015, “In New York State, a City Willing to Settle Refugees the Right Way”; in 2017, her story on sexual harassment at the UN was also among the top 5 for the year. Kirkpatrick also manages social media and audience development for PassBlue. She received a New Media Editorial Fellowship from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and has a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. in English from Hamilton College.

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Nikki Haley Resigns the US Ambassadorship, Surprising the UN Community
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Robert Lerman
Robert Lerman
5 years ago

Your comment about Israeli “sniper fire on protesters in Gaza, leaving dozens of people dead” continues the distortion of seeing the rioters in Gaza as simply “protesters” rather than violent individuals pushed by Hamas to undertake violence against Israeli soldiers guarding the border against intrusions by Palestinians aiming to conduct terror within Israel. Moreover, you ignore the scores if not hundreds of fires and destruction of property as well as bombs linked to balloons sent over the fence.

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