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Nikki Haley Resigns as U.N. Ambassador. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 9, 2018 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And a reminder, right, about now, the president has tweeted that sometime in the next few moments he will appear at the White House with Nikki Haley. The news just breaking, if you have just joined us, that Nikki Haley has resigned as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and that President Trump has accepted that resignation. The president saying he's going to appear alongside his now former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. -

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- very shortly. Of course, we're going to bring that to you live.

Susan Glasser, CNN foreign affairs analyst, has covered the U.N. and the issues that cover it. That it's involved with very closely. Tell us how substantive, how substantial, significant this is.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think it is extremely significant for this Trump foreign policy team. You know, from the beginning, you have had Nikki Haley being a voice of really much more the Republican establishment, you know, clearly at times at odds with the president, but also pushing him toward more hawkish positions on certain issues that he has ultimately adopted. For example, Nikki Haley was a leading voice inside the administration, pushing to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal at a time when H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, and Jim Mattis were against it.

And so, I think it's very significant that she'll no longer be there. We're waiting, obviously, to hear the framing for it. Obviously, the political context strikes me immediately. You do have someone who is a very ambitious politician who has taken a political approach to her tenure at the U.N. She was a newcomer to foreign policy, by all accounts, very adept at it, but very much an outsider in some ways both to the Trump administration and also to the world of the foreign policy establishment.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Interesting to note that the president arguably has been less critical of the United Nations than he has been of NATO, EU, other alliances. In fact, sometimes he's tweeted about the potential of the U.N. as a body. Certainly no love lost there, talk of cutting U.S. contributions financially, et cetera, but he's been more critical of other U.S. alliances.

HARLOW: We know, Susan Glasser, also that, you know, in just April of this year when reporters asked Nikki Haley about her relationship with the president, she summed it up with just a few words and said it's perfect. And notable that the president called her my friend in his announcement of this meeting that should happen at any moment. The cameras will be there and you'll see it all live here in a minute. What do you think is the most significant thing she has done during her tenure at the United Nations, Susan?

GLASSER: Well, I think she has made it very clear at the U.N. that the United States is willing to be much more aggressive than it has in the past in being an advocate for and partner of Israel. She has withdrawn and pushed to withdraw from U.N. bodies that were critical of Israel, the Human Rights Council, for example. And I think she has really politically used that platform in many ways to advance her own standing inside the very active Republican Jewish donor community. She's gotten very much plaudits, I think, for taking a much more aggressive position at the United Nations than some of her predecessors when it comes to not standing up for criticism.

I think many people, however, will look back on this period and wonder whether, you know, Ambassador Haley and President Trump have really made a rhetorical significant shift in saying we're no longer going to vote with or to give aid to those who vote against us at the United Nations and really appearing to take a much more transactional and conditional approach to U.S. leadership in the world. She certainly was involved with that.

She has been a lone voice though. I have to say. It's very important, on things like human rights and freedom when it comes to a Trump administration and a president who has not been very interested or engaged in those issues. And so, I wonder what the administration will look like with her outside of it, when it comes to those issues of human rights.


SCIUTTO: Michelle, we understand you're getting more reaction from foreign diplomats.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right, just surprise. More people shocked that the timing was now. Saying they didn't see this coming, people who had spoken to her not long ago. I feel like we have heard that time and time again this morning. That people who spoke to her only recently at the U.N. General Assembly, and were surprised by this timing, even though they felt like the fact that she is a politician and many felt that she had political ambitions beyond this, which she has denied, you know, they felt like at some point this would come not necessarily right now today, however, she just got past the U.N. General Assembly. They saw her as a very forceful voice for the way the U.S. stands on a number of issues.

[10:35:05] Remember how fiercely she has called out Russia, going well beyond the White House on that. She's called out Syrian President Bashar al Assad. But then, at times you know foreign diplomats would say the way that she would word things, the threats she would make to U.S. allies, saying we're taking names. The U.S. will remember this if you vote against the way the U.S. and Israel are going.

And remember, when she threw a party once for those who supported the U.S. stance on that, a party that was only for our friends. An invitation went out saying that. So, she's made moves like that that were forceful and you could see the White House and in particular President Trump loving, but her counterparts at the U.N. often felt like those were rookie moves or rookie mistakes in their view. And this morning, they're expressing a lot of surprise by the timing of this.

HARLOW: So to Mark Preston, if you're still with us, as we wait, we're going to get tape from the Oval Office. They're meeting right now, they're filming it. You'll see it as soon as we get it, we promise. Who would fill her shoes? OK. Let's talk about senior women within the president's senior team. Ivanka Trump, possibly? Dina Powell.

SCIUTTO: Dina Powell, who was until recently the deputy National Security Adviser -- McMaster.

HARLOW: Exactly, who also is born in Egypt has a lot of foreign policy experience, worked in the Bush White House. What do you think?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. I mean, whoever the successor is to Nikki Haley is going to have to navigate many different paths in that White House, right? When that person comes in, they're going to have to be able to work very well with Mike Pompeo. At the same time, they're going to have to work very well with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. You brought up Ivanka Trump --

HARLOW: Which Dina Powell does -- I mean which Dina Powell works very closely with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

PRESTON: Correct. Starts to check the boxes, right? This is when we start to do the box checking. But you know there's been some talk that Ivanka Trump, as you said, would like that position herself. And who's to say that her father wouldn't put her in that position? Who knows? I can say this though. I can say that the president is loving every minute of this because this is really playing into this whole reality TV atmosphere of this presidency. We're going to leak a little something out. Get us all worked up, and we're all worked up because we're really interested. This is a very important position, and then we'll let it play out a little bit. Give us little kernels, you know, little crumbs, and then he's going to release it. It really does play right into the presidency.

SCIUTTO: He loves a show, he loves an announcement. Dina Powell is a name that's been mentioned, and we have a couple of our reporters here who are noting that as a possibility. Again, it's early, another name, Ivanka Trump. Mark Preston, is that a genuine possibility? And it was already unprecedented for a president to have a daughter as a senior adviser in the White House, as a U.N. Ambassador, possible? PRESTON: Sure. Anything is possible in a Trump presidency. I mean, I don't think the rails are on the lanes anymore at the bowling alley. I mean, they're just not. So if Donald Trump, you know, really wants to put her in that role, I'm sure he can do it. In many ways you have to wonder why she would want that role. Maybe does she want separation? Assuming that's going to be the case, does she want to get back to New York? There's been talk about how her and her husband would like to get back to New York. That could get them back to New York. I would argue this. I think she's in such a powerful position being right next to the president that I don't know why anybody would want that position if she was really looking for power.

HARLOW: All right. Well, let me jump to this, as someone who's interviewed Ivanka Trump before and knows her interests and area of work, one of them right now is on advocacy around the globe. And particularly when it comes to women's issues, and it's something that she doesn't make a lot of headlines for, but it is an area where a lot of her work has gone. So, Mark Preston, I do think she may have some interest in a role like this that would truly put her on the world stage and put her focus on some more of the global issues where she may be able to have some success. What do you think?

PRESTON: You know what it would do, again, speculative, we're just kind of guessing here, but it would allow her to carve her own path, right? It would allow her to get out a little further from her father's shadow. I mean, right now, she's right next to him. But she goes to New York. Having said that, she's still going to have to promote and push and advocate her father's policies which will always put her in debt to her father and always link her to her father, no matter how she tries to separate herself.

SCIUTTO: Folks, if you're just joining us, Nikki Haley has resigned as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The president has accepted that resignation, and right now, the president has said this. He's tweeted this. They are meeting at the White House. And the president has said there will be an announcement, once we have that announcement, it's going to be on tape. We're going to turn it right around and broadcast it for you.

Abby Phillip, if you're still there, we're hearing some reporting that Haley may have raised this possibility last week at the White House.

[10:40:09] Did we know about the timing and how much advance notice there may have been involved here?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's something that we're still working out the details of, but it seems very clear at the moment that a lot of senior people within the White House, and even around Nikki Haley, were caught by surprise by this, but we are hearing from some sources that it was raised among a very small group within the White House as early as last week, even though this is something that is being talked about kind of all the time around this Trump administration.

Last week, we're hearing from a source, that she may have raised this issue with a small group of advisers, leaving some others who are pretty senior here in the dark. So it was clearly closely held, and note the timing on that. This would have been in the middle of a major, major battle for this White House. They were in the middle of the Kavanaugh confirmation, so obviously, not trying to layer on multiple issues if they can avoid it at any point. Now that that is clear, we're finally getting word of her resignation. So, you know, as we get more, we'll get it to you. But clearly, this was something that was very, very closely held up until even this morning when a lot of senior people here seemed to have no idea that it was coming.

SCIUTTO: We're getting some notes from inside the Oval Office, Trump and Haley together there. --

HARLOW: What they're saying, yes.

SCIUTTO: We don't have the tape yet, but what they're saying, they talked a little bit about the hurricane, but Nikki Haley -- the president saying Nikki Haley has been very special to me. She's done an incredible job, a fantastic person, the president says. She gets it, been at the U.N. since the beginning. The president goes on. Again, these are notes from inside the Oval Office provided from CNN reporter inside. She told me six months ago, the president says, that maybe at the end of the year she would want to take a break. So at least from those initial comments from the president and her at least portrayed there in those comments as a friendly departure, that the president is saying he had some advanced knowledge of.

HARLOW: Our Michelle Kosinski is with us as well, who covers the State Department. Michelle, I think you do have, we're hearing, new reporting on this. What can you tell us?

KOSINSKI: Yes, just that we have found out earlier from a senior State Department official that she just notified her top staff about this resignation this morning. So that was the first that at least many of them, according to this source, knew about it. Now we're being told by another diplomatic source connected to the U.N. that what she told them was that she has done her two years and now it's time to move on. Any further detail than that, I assume, we'll be getting soon from the White House. But we're also hearing from a senior foreign diplomat, more surprise that she was well liked at the U.N., according to this source. And that they didn't see this coming.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Richard Roth, if you're still there over at the U.N., as Poppy was saying, you've got a few years in that building, you know it well. He was, and I heard this from a U.N. diplomat earlier this morning -- she, rather, was seen as a bulwark against the outliers you might say, in the Trump administration, someone that folks, diplomats in the U.N. trusted to help keep that relationship going.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Ambassadors did praise her. They liked the fact she got the trains rolling and would demand further action and say, hey, why is this peace keeping mission still there? Where is the money going? I think they liked that part. But the politics may be coming more from Washington. They were totally against the U.S., and the United States was historically sometimes the only country voting a certain way in the Security Council or the general assembly on the Middle East and other issues. There was always a sense Haley would leave. What Michelle is quoting is someone saying she did her two years. It's been about a year and seven months. And you just can't help but look ahead down the political calendar. Unless there is some other problem we don't know about. Nikki Haley was the U.S. Ambassador here and was more well- known than any other diplomat. No one knows who the secretary-general is if you go out on the streets. It was the Haley show. She was tough, she was strong. They said behind the scenes she was more of a moderating force between the Trump administration and the U.N., as we have been discussing this morning.


SCIUTTO: And not just from the U.N.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Two names that come up, when you meet with foreign diplomats, officials from U.S. allies. They will say General Mattis.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: And Nikki Haley give us comfort about our relationship with the U.S., that some of the more controversial things that come from this president or the White House about NATO, et cetera, balanced by the positions, the statements, the assurances they received from a Haley or Mattis. Mattis, our reporting has been that the relationship with Trump is not particularly warm these days and now Nikki Haley leaving. This is significant, no question.

[10:45:02] HARLOW: Mark Preston, back to you. Whoever replaces Nikki Haley will need to be confirmed. And it's going to have to be someone who has strong relationships on the Hill, across parties. Our Dana Bash points out in her reporting. Obviously, Ivanka Trump has worked to build those relationships, especially with female Democratic senators just a point. How important for Nikki Haley's replacement, whomever it may be, to have, as Jim points out, to be someone who gives reassurance, not pause, to our allies overseas?

PRESTON: Well, I think that's extremely important. We would hope that all of the senators when they're taking this into consideration, whoever they choose to take into consideration what the person's background is, what their knowledge is, what their relationships are around the world. I will tell you this, though. I have spoken to folks who have told me how important it is, and this is very well understood within the administration, how important it is to send somebody that is close to the president to key countries when you're dealing with the ambassadors, and also using this position right here as somebody that when world leaders hear Nikki Haley speak, they know she's speaking for Donald Trump. Whoever follows in her footsteps has got to be able to do the same thing. Otherwise, that person is going to be extremely ineffective.

So, let's assume that it is someone like Dina Powell, who has a long resume, very well respected. Jim, you know, you have dealt with her a lot as well over the years. She is somebody that is very well respected. If it's somebody like Ivanka Trump, you know it will give pause. There's no question, it will give pause to world leaders about her experience, but it will give them a little sense of probably relief knowing that whoever they would talk to, if that's her then they would at least have the president's ear.


PRESTON: But it does come down to the U.S. Senate and the whole confirmation battle.

SCIUTTO: There would be the small issue of nepotism there as well, just imagine that. We're getting some more details because as we have been speaking, the president and Nikki Haley have been together in the White House. We're going to see this tape momentarily, but we have notes from reporters inside. And this news, President Trump says Haley will be leaving at the end of this year. Not leaving tomorrow but staying in the position through the end of the year.

HARLOW: Right, through the end of the year. We also learned from our Jamie Gangel reporting, a source familiar says that Haley's resignation also caught the National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by surprise. That's significant given how closely she works with them on such significant issues. Again, it caught both of them by surprise.

SCIUTTO: Trust me, I'm hearing that from Democrats and Republicans on the Hill as well. One final note from the notes inside, from reporters inside this Oval Office meeting, the president and the ambassador making every effort to make nice with this departure, showering each other with praise, the president saying that she telegraphed this to him some several months ago, the idea being that the president attempting to make clear he was not taken by surprise by this, this was always in the plan, and that they're leaving each other on good terms. That's the sense we're getting from inside the Oval Office as they speak to reporters. We're going to have that tape for you momentarily.

HARLOW: Nic Robertson, to you, big picture on the world stage. If you just think about the totality of the relationship that the United States has now under the leadership of President Trump with our allies and what has been strained and what has been strengthened, how do you think Nikki Haley has been most integral in those relationships?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: On the issues that allies have wanted to see President Trump be tough on, in particular, Russia, because that's one that he seems to be sensitive on and not one that he's wanted to push as allies in Britain and France and Germany, the Baltic States, have all wanted him to be, Nikki Haley has been a source of comfort. She has understood intrinsically the concerns of the Baltic States. They're so close to Russia, so close to its transgressions in Ukraine and Crimea. That when Theresa May was appealing to the United States for diplomatic support, when the Russian military agents poisoned or tried to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter back in March earlier this year, Nikki Haley was seen as a source of comfort to relay that message and strengthen the United States resolve. If you're one of the United States' enemies, and Iran would certainly be front and center on that, Nikki Haley has been an absolute powerful advocate, even before we really got into the run-up to President Trump removing, pulling the United States out of that international joint nuclear deal, the JCPOA. I remember standing at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, responsible for overseeing details in that agreement. Nikki Haley came not long after she was appointed to the United Nations as ambassador and she told the top diplomat there, the secretary general that he needed to get tougher on the Iranian inspections.

[10:50:09] They needed to push harder and be tougher. And I have to say, at that time, standing there talking to officials there, it really raised eyebrows. So, if you are one of the United States' enemies, and Nikki Haley steps out of this position, then perhaps you breathe a tiny bit easier for a while until you see what comes next - and advocate.

SCIUTTO: Other news -- other news, Nic, coming in as we speak. These are notes from inside the Oval Office where the president is appearing alongside this outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, some speculation there has been about her running in 2020. She's putting that speculation to rest saying she's going to be campaigning for President Trump in 2020.

We have David Gergen on the phone now. He's served four U.S. presidents, Republican and Democrat. Describe how significant a loss this is for this administration. Is it destabilizing in your view?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): No, I don't think it's destabilizing but it's a significant loss. Nikki Haley was one of the people that Donald Trump has trusted most. They seem to be very simpatico. She's also popular in the cabinet generally. Very importantly, she sends out a signal of a woman who is standing by the president's side, a popular woman, a woman who has had guts when she was governor of South Carolina. So, in that sense, I think it's a political blow. It also -- you know, there's a great deal of speculation, has been for some time, about what her political future might be after the U.N. That did not seem the last stop in the road, much of the speculation centered on whether Donald Trump could make her his vice presidential candidate in 2020, whether she might play some other significant role, whether she might step up to be Secretary of State at some point. Often, the U.N. can be a stepping stone to the Secretary of State position as Madeleine Albright.

HARLOW: That's an interesting point, David Gergen. The fact that we've just learned from our reporting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton were caught unaware, were surprised by this announcement. You would think they would be in the loop, no?

GERGEN: Absolutely. Especially since the argument is that she was tired and everybody sort of knew that she would want to resign after two years. I don't think anybody knew, at least anybody that we know about knew. So there's still a great deal of mystery about this resignation. Presumably, the story will come out over the next couple days. But right now, I think the truth is that none of us on the outside really knows why she did it.

SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, if you're still there, the president being effusive about his U.N. ambassador here, the ambassador being effusive about the president here, describing a warm relationship. How much they admire each other. Is that accurate, Abby Phillip, or have they had disagreements?

PHILLIP: I think a lot of people would characterize President Trump's relationship with Nikki Haley as her being for a long time in this administration kind of a golden child. They did have a very close relationship, especially at times when President Trump had a tougher relationship with some other members of his foreign policy team, Rex Tillerson earlier on in the administration. Nikki Haley was seen as someone who spoke for President Trump, even through those times when she would seem to distance herself a little bit from him. I think that they had a mutual respect for each other after a bruising campaign in which she opposed him for a lot of that campaign. They had come to be much closer to each other.

And I think people close to the president describe Nikki Haley as being someone who was very much a student of President Trump. She understood how to talk to him, how to execute what he wanted out of his foreign policy, and was seen as someone who did do that for a long time in this administration. There were not many people who were seen as having the gravitas and the respect of President Trump to speak for him on the world stage. Now there are more people around President Trump like Mike Pompeo who have that aura around them, but she was one of few for a while here in this administration.

And I would also add that President Trump, according to these notes that are coming out of their meeting today, noted that Nikki Haley has actually elevated the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. And he says a lot of people now want this job because she's made it basically a job that people want. So I think he views her very highly, and he thinks she's done something different with that job. A lot of people were not sure how you could have a U.N. ambassador given this administration's sometimes adversarial posture toward institutions like that. And Nikki Haley was seen as someone who was able to thread that line. I think that's what you're hearing from President Trump today.

HARLOW: Very adept at that. Michelle Kosinski, let me jump back to you for some more of your reporting on this.

[10:55:00] KOSINSKI: Sure. That she told her staff this morning that she had done her two years, and it was time to go. So without getting a lot more information than that, she took her own staff by surprise in at least many cases that we know of. And we're hearing from senior diplomatic sources that both John Bolton and Mike Pompeo were, quote, "blindsided" by this news.

So, we know that the president from the notes that are coming out of what he's saying now, that she told him about six months ago that she had done her job and she was looking for a break or to move on. Well, apparently, not too many other people knew about this because what we keep talking about today is the surprise of diplomats at the U.N., of people around her, even other cabinet members. So why this was so closely held, even to people like the Secretary of State and the National Security Adviser, that's what we're waiting to find out. But that's the word that is circulating now among those close to Nikki Haley and her position.

SCIUTTO: Other news coming out of the Oval Office, again this is where as we speak the president and Nikki Haley have been meeting, talking, showering each other with praise and talking about the departure. But the president said he will name her successor within the next two or three weeks.

HARLOW: OK. You would assume taking a number of questions because this has been going on for a while, since 10:30 a.m. in the morning. They're turning the tape so you'll hear it soon. But again, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, resigning, a surprise to all of us, a surprise to Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, and John Bolton, the National Security Adviser -


SCIUTTO: To Republican and Democratic lawmakers

HARLOW: To all of your sources as well.

SCIUTTO: To folks inside the U.N. where Nikki Haley, like in a lot of places, was seen as a moderating force for a president who often gave them concerns about U.S. alliances and positions abroad.

HARLOW: Right. David Rohde is with us, now our global affairs analyst. David Rhode, how do you see this and the timing and the fact it was such a surprise?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it hurts the president in terms of the lack of women on the foreign policy team. And I agree with what Jim said. She was sort of a moderating voice. There really is personality in this foreign policy team is Mike Pompeo, who as Secretary of State is very much a hard liner on Iran, and he's really the dominant force. He was sort of overshadowing Nikki Haley. He's also overshadowed John Bolton, and the president loves him because Pompeo is so tough on Iran. So that voice, that viewpoint, is going to grow stronger.


SCIUTTO: No question. We have Richard Roth at the U.N. Of course, Ambassador Haley's home base for a couple years now. Speak about moderating influences. Also confidence building influence that Nikki Haley gave to U.S. allies.

ROTH: Look, she presented a very good look politically or otherwise for the United States at the U.N. and when she guided President Trump around the U.N. Two weeks ago at the special general assembly, it was like presenting him with look at where you are. They scheduled extra meetings almost as if to say to President Trump, the U.N. is not so bad. Look, there's a meeting we're going to do on drugs you care about and the opioid epidemic and then there's a meeting on Iran, but we're not going to call it about Iran because that would offend a lot of other people. We're going to broaden it out to nuclear nonproliferation.

I think also in the streets of New York and elsewhere, I think Nikki Haley was one of the few people in this Trump administration who Trump supporters loved and many people who don't like Donald Trump also loved. A lot of that has to do with Israel, I think, and Jewish Americans who support Israel love the tough stance she took in trying to battle an anti-Israel lineup among the 193 U.N. member countries. I think she may have just decided it was better to get out now. She can't go any higher in her standing and perhaps the Bolton/Pompeo combination a little more restrictive than Rex Tillerson was when he was Secretary of State. Nikki Haley had free reign, and she was in effect the spokesman to the world for the United States for the first few months.

SCIUTTO: And Richard Roth, listen, there's a narrative that the White House is pushing out right now that this has been in the works for months, that the president knew about it, they're leaving on the happiest of terms. Our White House colleague saying there are questions about that, even within the administration. Because there are several folks within the administration, including in the State Department and elsewhere, who are surprised by this, that word if it had been or warning if it had been given to the president some months ago, they did not hear it. And listen, this is four weeks before the midterms, after a bruising Kavanaugh fight.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Lots of questions still to be answered on this.

HARLOW: And we'll hear directly from Nikki Haley and from the president in less than two minutes. We got that two minute warning about the tape turning. So you'll see it here in a moment. Thank you for being with us this morning, rock and rolling with all of the breaking news. It's a major development.

I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: And our continued coverage continues right now with Kate Bolduan.