Nikki Haley Resigns as US Ambassador to the United Nations

(CN) – Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor whom President Donald Trump elevated to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, resigned Tuesday.

President Donald Trump announced Haley’s resignation this morning at the Oval Office, saying his U.N. ambassador would be leaving the administration at the end of the year.

He went on to describe Haley as a “very special” person, adding that she told him six months ago that she might want to take some time off. Trump said that together, they had “solved a lot of problems.”

“Hopefully, you’ll be coming back at some point, maybe in a different capacity — you can take your pick,” the president said.

No reason for the resignation was immediately provided. Haley said her job as U.N. ambassador has been “an honor of a lifetime.”

“To be able to lead the state that raised me and serve a country I love so very much has really been a blessing,” Haley said. “Look at what has happened in [the last] two years with the U.S. – on foreign policy, the U.S. is now respected. They might not like what we do, but they respect what we do.”

Haley praised the Trump administration for its achievements, including an arms embargo in South Sudan and ending the Iran nuclear deal.

“It brought attention to the world that you can’t overlook all of the bad things [Iran is] doing,” Haley said. “You have to see them for the threat they are. … The U.S. is strong again and in a way that should make all Americans very proud.”

The outgoing U.N. ambassador said she’s made no decision on what she’ll do next. Haley did say she won’t be running for office in 2020, and will be supporting the president’s re-election effort.

According to CNN, several members of the administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, were taken by surprise by Tuesday’s announcement.

Trump said Tuesday that Haley’s replacement would likely be announced in the next two to three weeks.

It is unclear who is first up for consideration but multiple media reports have speculated that it could be the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.  The president has suggested Ivanka for the role in the past, but in Tuesday he said while she would be “wonderful,” he didn’t want to be accused of nepotism.

Ivanka’s name came up once during Haley’s announcement when the former U.N. ambassador heaped praised on her and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

“Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands,” Haley said. “To redo the NAFTA deal the way he did [and] Ivanka has been a great friend. They do a lot of things behind the scenes that I wish more people knew about it.”

The president was also asked whether Dina Powell, a former administration official who is now a Goldman Sachs exec.

“She’s a person I would consider,” the president said.

Haley, 46, the daughter of immigrants from India, was a forceful, moderating voice in the administration, and her appointment to the U.N. post in the fall of 2016 was seen as an attempt by Trump to build bridges to moderates in his party.

Early on in the 2016 presidential campaign, Haley made frequent appearances with Senator Marco Rubio, then a presidential hopeful, and Senator Tim Scott, the trio positioning themselves as the “new face” of the GOP.

Haley also criticized Trump during the campaign, going so far as urging the public to reject “the siren call of the angriest voices” — clearly meaning Trump — during a January 2016 response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

But Haley’s star was in the ascendance, following her successful push to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol in the aftermath of the 2015 massacre at a black church in Charleston.

More recently, Haley said that women who accused the president of sexual misconduct should be heard.

“They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,” Haley told CBS News in January 2017. “And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”

Last month Haley wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post discussing her policy disagreements but also her pride in being part of the Trump administration.

It was written in response to an anonymous essay in The New York Times by a senior administration official that alleged there to be a secret “resistance” effort from the right in Trump’s administration and that there were internal discussions of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

“I proudly serve in this administration, and I enthusiastically support most of its decisions and the direction it is taking the country,” Haley wrote. “But I don’t agree with the president on everything.”

Though Haley is leaving the high-profile position at the United Nations, her name may continue to linger in the headlines.

The Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, or CREW, announced Tuesday that it wants to open an investigation into possible ethics violations Haley may have committed during her tenure.

According to CREW, Haley listed three flights aboard a private jet for jaunts between New York, Washington, D.C., and three cities in South Carolina. Her husband also accompanied her on the trips.

The organization has asked the State Department inspector general to investigate the total costs for the flights – which they argue could be “worth tens of thousands of dollars” – and determine if they were eligible for exemption.

According to the form, Haley exempted the flights from the executives since they were friends of hers. The State Department’s inspector general would be able to verify whether her friends’ businesses paid for all or some of the flight costs, and if they benefited directly from offering the gift to someone inside the Trump administration.

This is the second time in two years that Haley has come under the microscope at the watchdog group.

It launched an investigation into Haley last year when she retweeted a message from Trump that ended up being a violation of the Hatch Act, which states federal employees are prohibited from using their positions to deliver messages deemed partisan.

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