President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, said on Tuesday she would resign at the end of the year, marking a high-profile departure of one of the few women in the president’s cabinet.
Ms. Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, had been an early and frequent critic of Mr. Trump; when he named her to the United Nations job weeks after his election in November 2016, the appointment was seen as an olive branch. As ambassador, Ms. Haley has been an outspoken and often forceful envoy — someone whom foreign diplomats looked to for guidance from an administration known for haphazard and inconsistent policy positions.
“It was a blessing to go into the U.N. with body armor every day and defend America,” Ms. Haley, seated next to Mr. Trump in the Oval Office, told reporters. “I’ll never truly step aside from fighting for our country. But I will tell you that I think it’s time.”
“I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job,” she added.
White House staffers were caught off guard by the announcement, which Ms. Haley and Mr. Trump had kept closely under wraps. But the president said Ms. Haley had informed him roughly six months ago that she wanted to take a break after finishing two years with the administration. He said he hoped Ms. Haley would return in a different role, and would name her successor within the next two or three weeks.
“She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose you.”
Possible successors include Dina Powell, a former deputy national security adviser to the president, and Richard A. Grenell. Mr. Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, served as spokesman for John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, when he was ambassador to the United Nation under former President George W. Bush.
Ms. Haley is said to have a strained relationship with Mr. Bolton, a longtime critic of the United Nations. But she has been closely allied with Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The couple held a dinner in New York months ago celebrating Ms. Haley’s tenure there, and during her Tuesday appearance with Mr. Trump, she singled them both out for praise.