Nikki Haley Steps Down As U.N. Ambassador

Oct 9, 2018
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is stepping down from her post. I'm here now with NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen.

Good morning, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: All right, so President Trump and Nikki Haley have given a joint news conference. In fact, I think Nikki Haley may still be speaking. What has she said about why she's stepping down?

KELEMEN: She isn't really saying why she's stepping down other than that she was planning to leave after two years, that it's kind of a natural time. And she's talking about the accomplishments that she's had up there at the U.N. And you know, it's been really fascinating to watch her over this time. She's done quite an amazing job of finding her voice at the U.N. and building up foreign policy credentials, which could help her in any future political run but also kind of keeping a bit of a distance from the president. You know, here in the Oval Office - there she was, you know, praising him and talking about being part of this team. But she's always managed to kind of keep her distance from sort of the chaos going on at the White House.

KING: Bit of an arm's length. And President Trump...

KELEMEN: Yeah.

KING: ...Of course, spoke in this news conference as well. Let's play a little bit of what he had to say here.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I wanted to do this because Nikki Haley, ambassador to the United Nations, has been very special to me. She's done an incredible job. She's a fantastic person, very importantly, but she also is somebody that gets it. She has been at the United Nations from the beginning with us - right from the beginning.

KING: The president describes a relationship that sounds very friendly, very chummy. What is your understanding of the relationship between these two people and whether or not this was expected?

KELEMEN: Well, I mean, I had been hearing that she actually had passed over the job of secretary of state early on in this administration, I think preferring probably this ability to keep a little bit of an arm's length of the White House. She's also been very careful not to upstage him politically. She's - we're seeing wire stories out of her comments today saying that she doesn't plan to run in 2020 and that she'll campaign for Trump. But you know, it is interesting timing, you know, not waiting until the midterm elections, kind of leaving this administration before it might face any kind of other controversy. She kind of has done what she set out to do - again, building up her foreign policy creds at the U.N.

KING: Let's hear a little bit of what Nikki Haley had to say about all of this at the news conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

NIKKI HALEY: Now the United States is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do.

KING: I mean, this is a really interesting point because the Trump administration has been very critical of the United Nations. And I wonder - how successful was Haley at articulating the president's policies? And how was she regarded at the U.N.?

KELEMEN: She was very tough. I think a lot of people were taken aback by - when she came in saying, we're going to take names of who supports us and who doesn't at the U.N. On the other hand, you know, people like the U.N. secretary-general found ways to work with her on things that he wanted to accomplish, too - reforming the U.N., fixing the U.N. He managed to - you know, the U.S. did pull out of things like the U.N. Human Rights Council. But it is an important financial donor to a lot of the U.N. humanitarian agencies but also to U.N. peacekeeping. So you know, she's done a lot to push for reforms. When it's the same things that the U.N. secretary-general wants, he's worked well with her on that.

KING: President Trump did say in the news conference today, if she wants a different place in my administration, all she has to do is ask. And we can't speculate on that, I suppose. But do we know who might be a candidate to succeed Nikki Haley?

KELEMEN: Not sure yet, But I would bet that John Bolton is going to have a big say in that. He's President Trump's national security adviser and former ambassador to the U.N. during the Bush administration and a very big critic of the U.N. There's also some speculation that someone like Dina Powell could get the job since she had wanted that and left the Trump administration to go back to New York.

KING: Michele Kelemen, NPR's diplomatic correspondent.

Thanks, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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