Only weeks ago, Nikki Haley seemed in lockstep with Donald Trump as she accompanied the president around the United Nations General Assembly in New York and reinforced his “America First” message at every turn. “We have pulled out of the Paris Accord [on climate change]. We have pulled out of the Global Compact [for Migration]. We have pulled out of the Iran deal,” the U.S. ambassador to the UN boasted to reporters, in explaining how her boss was safeguarding America’s sovereignty. Just ahead of the General Assembly, I’d watched her proudly declare during a conference in Washington, D.C., that it was “a new day in our country,” in which the United States would no longer provide foreign aid to hostile countries.
But appearances can be deceiving. On Tuesday, all of a sudden, Haley announced that she would be stepping down as UN ambassador at the end of the year—to, as Trump put it, “take a little break.” The United States “is strong again,” Haley said during an appearance in the Oval Office. “Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do.” Haley “gets it,” Trump added.
The move is shocking because Haley has demonstrated remarkable staying power in the Trump administration, joining at the outset and outlasting other top foreign-policy advisers such as H. R. McMaster and Rex Tillerson. She hasn’t recently been on the shortlist of Cabinet members whose days were rumored to be numbered—in contrast to, say, the always-embattled Jeff Sessions or the seemingly out-of-favor James Mattis. And she has positioned herself squarely with the president on a number of high-priority issues.