Trump, along with Haley, made the announcement at the White House on Oct. 9. The White House will pick a successor in two to three weeks, the president said.
Haley said that the post had been the honor of a lifetime, but felt like she needed to step aside after serving six years as the governor of South Carolina and almost two years as the U.N. ambassador.
“I am such a lucky girl to have been able to lead the state that raised me and to serve a country I love so very much. It has really been a blessing, and I want to thank you for that,” Haley told Trump.
Trump said Haley told him six months ago she wanted to “take a break” by year’s end. Haley, who has served as the U.N. ambassador since the early days of the Trump administration, emphasized the administration’s accomplishments over that time, including imposing strict sanctions on North Korea, exiting the Iran nuclear deal, and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“Now, the United States is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” Haley said. “The U.S. is strong again and the U.S. is strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud.”
Haley didn’t say what she wanted to do next, beyond indicating plans to campaign for Trump’s reelection in 2020.
The president said that Haley got to know the key players at the United Nations and earned their respect. Haley made the ambassador job more “glamorous” and “important” for those who want to succeed her, Trump added.
“We will miss you,” Trump said. “You have done a fantastic job, and I want to thank you very much.”
Haley has been an outspoken advocate of Trump’s foreign policy. She took tough positions on Iran and North Korea, while staunchly defending Israel. She withdrew the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council, slamming the organization as a “protector of human-rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias.”
At the White House, Haley thanked the president and praised several White House officials, including senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, as well as First Lady Melania Trump. Haley specifically lauded Kushner’s achievements in fixing the North American Free Trade Agreement and his efforts toward peace in the Middle East.
Lawmakers and Trump administration officials showered Haley with praise when the news of her resignation broke.
“Nikki Haley has a very bright future and will be a key player in both the future of the Republican Party and our nation as a whole for years to come,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote on Twitter. “She is a clear, concise voice for American leadership, American values, and has been a true agent of reform when it came to the United Nations.”
“Nikki Haley served our nation with distinction, faithfully advancing President Trump’s America First agenda and she will be missed,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement. “Her frank and clear-eyed assessments of global threats, as well as much-needed reforms at the U.N., were in the best tradition of American leadership.”
Haley’s U.N. counterparts described her as charming yet very tough. She saw herself as a fighter.
“I don’t see (my role) as pushing an ‘America First’ policy, I see it as defending America because every day, I feel like I put body armor on. I just don’t know who I’m fighting that day,” Haley said earlier this year.
Haley, 46, is the daughter of Indian immigrants and a mother of two.
Asked if she was resigning because of her family or for other reasons, Haley said she was a believer in term limits and felt like she needed to make way for someone else.
“I was a governor for six years, and we dealt with a hurricane, a thousand-year flood, a church shooting, a school shooting. There was a lot. And then, to come in and do two years of Russia and Iran and North Korea—it’s been eight years of intense time, and I’m a believer in term limits,” she said. “I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job.”
Trump suggested that Haley may come back to his administration in a different role after her break.
“We’re all happy for you, in one way,” Trump said. “Hopefully, you’ll be coming back at some point. Maybe in a different capacity. You can have your pick.”
Reuters contributed to this report.