U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has resigned, President Trump confirmed at a press conference Tuesday.
She will be leaving the administration at the end of the year.
The news was first reported earlier Tuesday morning by Axios’ Jonathan Swan, who spoke with two sources familiar with Haley’s impending departure.
The news reportedly came as a surprise to several top Trump administration officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly to Vice President Mike Pence.
“Haley discussed her resignation with Trump last week when she visited him at the White House, these sources said,” Swan wrote. “Her news shocked a number of senior foreign policy officials in the Trump administration.”
Haley’s departure comes weeks after she penned an op-ed in the Washington Post, in which she slammed the anonymous senior administration official who had published a New York Times editorial weeks earlier, claiming they were part of an internal “resistance” working against the president’s “worst inclinations.”
“The author might think he or she is doing a service to the country. I strongly disagree,” Haley wrote in response, on September 7.
She added, “I, too, am a senior Trump administration official. I proudly serve in this administration, and I enthusiastically support most of its decisions and the direction it is taking the country. But I don’t agree with the president on everything. When there is disagreement, there is a right way and a wrong way to address it. I pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person.”
Big announcement with my friend Ambassador Nikki Haley in the Oval Office at 10:30am.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2018
Speaking to reporters at a joint conference with Haley on Tuesday, President Trump said Haley told him of her decision six months earlier, saying she wanted to “take a break” from her duties. “She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” he said.
As of yet, it’s unclear whether Haley will eventually return to the administration and take on a new role, or leave Washington for the private sector, permanently. She said Tuesday she did not plan to run for president in 2020, addressing rumors that she might mount a challenge against Trump.
She said no “personal reasons” influences her decision to step down.
“I think it’s just very important for government officials to understand when it’s time to step aside. And I have given everything I’ve got these last eight years,” she said, citing her tenure as governor of South Carolina.
Haley was first appointed U.N. Ambassador in November 2016, and confirmed four days after Trump’s inauguration, Axios notes, despite her early criticisms of Trump along the campaign trail.
In January 2016, Haley delivered the official Republican response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address, and said the GOP needed to refrain from backing the “angriest voices” in the race, specifically pointing to then-candidate Trump, who had frequently energized his base using anti-immigrant, racist rhetoric, and promises to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” she said at the time. “We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
In an interview with TODAY later, Haley elaborated on her comments, saying Trump had taken the GOP down a dangerous path.
“Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk,” she said. “…Republicans need to understand there are things we could do better that can help strengthen our country. I think it’s important that Republicans look in the mirror and realize, we also are to blame.”
Following Trump’s inauguration, however, Haley quickly aligned herself with the president, pushing his aggressive world agenda and touting his self-proclaimed foreign policy victories.
After the president drew laughs at the U.N. General Assembly last month, for claiming his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” Haley jumped to his defense.
“What’s interesting is, I looked at the media yesterday and they all wants to talk about what the world view of the president is. What they need to understand is the world doesn’t understand the media in America right now,” she said in an interview on the president’s favorite morning news show, Fox & Friends.
On Tuesday, Haley once again boasted of the work the administration had accomplished during her tenure.
“Look at the two years, look at what has happened in two years with the United States on foreign policy,” she said. “Now the United States is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do. They know that if we say we’re going to do something, we follow it through. And the president proved that. Whether it was with the chemical weapons in Syria, whether it’s with NATO, saying that other countries have to pay their share, and whether it’s the trade deals, which have been amazing. They get that the president means business, and they follow through with that.”
The White House did not immediately name Haley’s successor, though Trump on Tuesday claimed “many people” were “very, very much interested” in taking over the role.