Nikki Ha­ley re­signs as US am­bas­sador to UN, shock­ing fel­low diplo­mats

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Ju­lian Borger in Wash­ing­ton

Nikki Ha­ley has re­signed as the US am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and will leave her post in Jan­uary, in a move that stunned al­lied diplo­mats and other se­nior of­fi­cials.

Ha­ley and Don­ald Trump an­nounced her de­par­ture in the Oval Of­fice. The tim­ing came as a sur­prise to her col­leagues at the state de­part­ment and at the UN se­cu­rity coun­cil.

Both the pres­i­dent and the out­go­ing en­voy heaped praise on each other, to em­pha­sise that she was not leav­ing on hard terms.

Ha­ley por­trayed her de­par­ture as the act of a con­sci­en­tious pub­lic ser­vant. “I think you have to be self­less enough to know when you step aside and al­low some­one else to do the job,” she said.

Asked about Ha­ley’s suc­ces­sor, Trump said there were “a num­ber of peo­ple that would very much like to do it”, say­ing Ha­ley had made it “a more glam­orous po­si­tion”.

Early spec­u­la­tion that Ivanka Trump might step into the role ap­peared to be shut down by a tweet by the pres­i­dent’s daugh­ter, say­ing she would not take the job.

Trump told re­porters on the way to a rally in Ne­braska that he had a short­list of five con­tenders to re­place Ha­ley.

The only name on the list he men­tioned was his for­mer deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Dina Pow­ell, who spent last week­end with Ha­ley and their fam­i­lies on a boat in South Carolina. “Dina would love it,” he said.

Richard Grenell, the US am­bas­sador to Ger­many who spent eight years at the mis­sion to the UN, has been tipped as a con­tender by con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tors. Trump said Grenell was not his short­list, but was will­ing to con­sider him.

“He is do­ing so well in a po­si­tion that is so im­por­tant,” the pres­i­dent said. “Ric is do­ing so well that I wouldn’t want to move him. I’d per­son­ally rather keep Ric where he is.”

The sec­re­tary of state, Mike Pom­peo, and the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, are re­ported to have been taken un­awares. But the pres­i­dent claimed he had been in­formed well in ad­vance.

Trump said: “She told me prob­a­bly six months ago. She said: ‘You know, at the end of the year, at the end of a twoyear pe­riod, I want to take some time off, I want to take a break.’”

It is un­clear why Ha­ley made the an­nounce­ment be­fore the midterm elec­tions.

She re­jected spec­u­la­tion that she was leav­ing to take a run at the pres­i­dency, say­ing she had no plans to stand in 2020 and would be cam­paign­ing for Trump. In her res­ig­na­tion let­ter, pub­lished by the Wash­ing­ton Post, Ha­ley said she was go­ing back to the pri­vate sec­tor, though she said she ex­pected to “speak out from time to time on im­por­tant pub­lic pol­icy mat­ters”.

The res­ig­na­tion let­ter was dated 3 Oc­to­ber, the day after Trump ap­peared at a po­lit­i­cal rally in Mis­sis­sippi and mocked Dr Chris­tine Blasey Ford, who had ac­cused Trump’s nom­i­nee for the supreme court of sex­ual as­sault. Ha­ley has por­trayed her­self as a de­fender of women’s rights, though there is no ev­i­dence Trump’s de­ri­sion of Ford was the im­me­di­ate trig­ger for her de­ci­sion.

A for­mer gov­er­nor of South Carolina, Ha­ley has been one of Trump’s most high-pro­file lieu­tenants, act­ing as the in­ter­na­tional face of the ad­min­is­tra­tion. How­ever, she pur­sued an out­spo­ken pol­icy di­rec­tion that was some­times at odds with the White House, par­tic­u­larly on the sub­ject of Rus­sia.

While Trump has been ret­i­cent about crit­i­cis­ing the Krem­lin, Ha­ley was a per­sis­tent, tren­chant critic of Rus­sian pol­icy in Syria and Ukraine, and over the chem­i­cal weapon at­tack against a for­mer Rus­sian spy in the UK in March. In April she was hu­mil­i­ated when she an­nounced im­mi­nent sanc­tions only to be con­tra­dicted by the White House which sug­gested she had been suf­fer­ing from “mo­men­tary con­fu­sion”.

Ha­ley fired back icily: “With all due re­spect, I don’t get con­fused.”

She also spoke out on hu­man rights is­sues more fre­quently and fer­vently than oth­ers in the state de­part­ment.

On other is­sues – un­con­di­tional sup­port for Is­rael (the Is­raeli army took the un­usual step of tweet­ing thanks for her “ser­vice”), un­flinch­ing hos­til­ity to Iran, North Korea and Venezuela – she was the most ar­tic­u­late ex­po­nent of hard­line po­si­tions.

Ear­lier this year, she an­nounced that the US was with­draw­ing from the United Na­tions hu­man rights coun­cil, which she de­scribed as a “cesspool of po­lit­i­cal bias”.

The tim­ing of Ha­ley’s de­par­ture caught diplo­mats at the UN by sur­prise. She ap­pears not to have given any in­di­ca­tion of her in­ten­tions to col­leagues on the se­cu­rity coun­cil.

But few of the diplo­mats she worked with ex­pected her to stay in the UN role for the full four years of Trump’s pres­i­den­tial term. She was

uni­ver­sally seen as a politi­cian us­ing the UN post to bur­nish her im­age and bide her time while it served her pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions.

“I thought she would go after two years, but two years isn’t up. Why would she go be­fore the midterms?” a se­nior diplo­mat said.

The diplo­mat spec­u­lated she could have her eye on a South Carolina Se­nate seat, or that her de­par­ture could have been in­flu­enced by re­cent de­mands for an en­quiry into her use of pri­vate jets last year pro­vided by a South Carolina busi­ness­man, but ex­pressed doubt over whether the al­le­ga­tions were se­ri­ous enough to trig­ger an early de­par­ture.

Her de­par­ture will raise anx­i­ety lev­els for US al­lies at the UN. De­spite her pointed rhetoric – warn­ing any coun­try who voted against the US that she was “tak­ing names” – she suc­ceeded in con­vinc­ing Trump that the UN served a use­ful pur­pose for US na­tional in­ter­ests.

How­ever, her rel­a­tive po­si­tion within the ad­min­is­tra­tion had been di­min­ish­ing since the ar­rival of Pom­peo at the head of the state de­part­ment. Un­der Pom­peo’s pre­de­ces­sor Rex Tiller­son, Ha­ley had a free hand, as Tiller­son took a low-key ap­proach to his job and was fre­quently at odds with Trump, who of­ten ig­nored him.

Pom­peo, by con­trast, quickly be­came the pri­mary spokesman for Trump’s pol­icy, and Ha­ley’s im­por­tance faded. Bolton, mean­while, is said to have clashed with Ha­ley when she tried to de­fend the UN as an in­sti­tu­tion. Ha­ley also lost a bat­tle with the White House hard­liner Stephen Miller over the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s refugee pol­icy.

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