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Trump, Pompeo offer praise for Haley as she announces surprise resignation

Nikki Haley earned the admiration of President Trump as ambassador to the U.N., despite a public dust-up with the administration over sanctions against Russia. As Nick Schifrin reports, on Tuesday, she announced her upcoming resignation. Yamiche Alcindor and Judy Woodruff discuss the motivation behind Haley’s decision, what she might do next and whom the president is considering to replace her.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump is in the market tonight for a new ambassador to the United Nations. Nikki Haley will formally resign at the end of the year after two years in the post.

    Our foreign affairs correspondent, Nick Schifrin, begins our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In the Oval Office today, President Trump and Ambassador Nikki Haley exchanged mutual praise.

  • Donald Trump:

    You've been fantastic. You're my friend. And I just — on behalf of the country, I want to thank you for a great job.

  • Nikki Haley:

    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.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And outside the White House, more thanks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    She's been a great partner of mine for the now five months that she and I had been working together. And I want to wish her very well.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    From the beginning, Haley was well-respected by many U.N. diplomats, well-covered by the media and embraced President Trump's foreign policy and combativeness.

  • Nikki Haley:

    For those that don't have our back, we're taking names.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    She trumpeted the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and the U.S. ending education and humanitarian support for Palestinians. And when 128 countries voted their disapproval, she once again warned she was taking names.

  • Nikki Haley:

    The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    On Iran, she reflected Trump policy when she spoke in front of Iranian weapons that she said proved Iran send missiles to regional allies.

  • Nikki Haley:

    It's hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that doesn't have Iran's fingerprints all over it.

    Foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And on Russia, she criticized Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, especially after an April 2017 chemical weapons attack.

  • Nikki Haley:

    How many more children have to die before Russia cares?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That's where she reflected the foreign policy establishment's antipathy to Russia over President Trump's positive rhetoric. Allied officials described her as a kind of translator to President Trump's isolationism.

    They sought her out and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who today said she did — quote — "yeoman's work."

  • James Mattis:

    We have a very close working relationship. We saw ourselves in many occasions collaborating together on how we would deal with certain issues.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That collaboration started when former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's ineffectiveness allowed her to become a high-profile voice of Trump's foreign policy. But then Tillerson was fired and she didn't get the job. When Pompeo did, and John Bolton became national security adviser, her wings were cut.

    That's when she says she first told the president she wanted to resign, and when she got out over her skis announcing Russian sanctions that never came.

  • Nikki Haley:

    You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But that announcement never came.

    And top economic adviser Larry Kudlow called Haley confused. She shot back, she doesn't get confused.

    Despite that dust-up, as she had for the last few years, Haley remained in the president's good graces, even though, in 2016, she campaigned for one of his main rivals, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

  • Nikki Haley:

    We need to show that South Carolina makes presidents and that our next president will be Marco Rubio!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Despite that rhetoric, President Trump's criticism of her was always tempered.

  • Donald Trump:

    Nikki Haley, a very nice woman. She said, I'm an angry person. And they said — they said you are an angry person. I thought — I said, I am. I'm very angry, because I hate what's happening to our country. I am angry.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Haley assumed and conveyed that anger at the U.N. White House officials describe her as overly political. But, on policy, she reflected the president's style and substance.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And joining me now is our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, Yamiche, so many people are asking, why is Nikki Haley doing this now? She said personal reasons, term limits. But what else do we know about what's happening here?

  •  Yamiche Alcindor:

    What we know is that Washington was really, really shocked when Nikki Haley made this announcement.

    And it's because our "NewsHour" producers here studied the list of the last 30 years of U.N. ambassadors. And in almost every single case, when that person resigned in the middle of a president's term, it's because they were taking another job in the administration. That is not the case with Nikki Haley.

    I spoke with someone who's close to Nikki Haley who also helped get elected in South Carolina. That person says she's very politically ambitious, in a good way, and that she would know when to leave. And in this case, she's leaving when the administration's having a good couple of weeks. They had Brett Kavanaugh confirmed. The trade deal went through.

    You also have the economy doing well. So Nikki Haley is kind of leaving on this high. There's, of course, this idea that she could run in 2020, but Nikki Haley was very firm today. She said she's not running in 2020 and she's actually going to help President Trump campaign.

    So she's throwing her support behind the president. But that's pretty much what people are talking about today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we heard in Nick's report that the president was complimenting her today. She was complimenting him.

    How does her leaving compare to the departure of other high-level Trump administration officials? There have been a few. And what do we know about who might take her place?

  •  Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Nikki Haley's announcement is very abnormal because it was so normal.

    There's this idea that, in the Trump administration, when people have left, it's usually been because of scandal, and they have been fired via Twitter.

    Just a couple lists. Everyone has been fired on Twitter. Some of the people are Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. You have Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin. Then you have former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired as he was speaking to FBI agents. Then there was the whole scene of the motorcade being followed by a news chopper because everyone was so shocked.

    Then you have scandals. The secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, and the EPA administration, Environmental Protection Agency, they were both fired or resigned because of ethical concerns.

    All that being said, the president said there are many, many names of people who could be people that would — that would replace Nikki Haley. He's floating the idea — he had floated the idea of Ivanka, even though she tweeted very quickly, I am not going to be the next U.N. ambassador.

    There's also Dina Powell. She's the former White House's deputy of national security. She's someone who's very well-regarded. But, really, we're going to have to wait and see, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ivanka Trump, his own daughter.

  •  Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But he mentioned today there might be a nepotism charge around that.

  •  Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, fascinating today. And Nikki Haley leaves at the end of the year.

  •  Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

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