(RNN) - Nikki Haley is resigning as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
President Donald Trump and Haley told reporters that she is leaving “at the end of the year.”
Haley’s resignation letter obtained by the Washington Post was dated Oct. 3. It included praise of the president for allowing her to be “free to speak my mind on the issues of the day.” She also vowed, “I will surely not be a candidate for any office in 2020.”
“She’s done a fantastic job, and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump said.
He said he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo think the world of her and that she’s been there “from the beginning.”
Haley was one of the first members of Trump’s cabinet, confirmed four days after his inauguration.
”It has been the honor of a lifetime,” she told pool reporters at the White House. “I’m such a lucky girl to lead the state that raised me” and the country she loves, she said.
Though the country may not be as liked, she said the U.S. is now “more respected.”
“People want to be on our side,” Trump said.
“Look at what has happened in two years in the United States on foreign policy,” Haley said.
She touted tougher U.S. trade, ending the Iran deal and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. “The U.S. is strong again,” she said.
Haley credited the president and the Trump family, saying Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were doing a lot behind the scenes, calling them “geniuses.”
“We’re a better country because they’re in this administration,” she said.
Trump called her a “very special” person, and said she told him “probably six months ago” that she would be “taking a break.”
She said, “I’m a believer in term limits. ... I think it’s very important for government officials to understand when it’s time to step aside.”
However, she clarified, “I will never truly step aside from fighting for our country.”
Trump took the opportunity of the news conference to tout his relationship with North Korea and bash both the media and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
When asked if the next meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will happen at Mar-a-Lago in south Florida, he said, “He would probably like that, I would like that too,” but then added, “I don’t want to embarrass anyone by asking.”
He criticized the media for being negative and Clinton: “Hillary never got it. That’s why she lost.”
Trump said he would name her successor in the next two or three weeks, and a number of people are interested in the position because she’s made it a “glamorous” position.
The president told reporters he had five candidates in mind, including former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell.
He said his daughter Ivanka had been mentioned as a possible candidate, but said he’d be accused of nepotism if he selected her.
Ivanka Trump said Tuesday evening that she wouldn’t replace Haley, tweeting: “I know that the President will nominate a formidable replacement for Ambassador Haley. That replacement will not be me.”
Haley said, far from running for president herself, she would be campaigning for Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. “No, I’m not running in 2020,” she said.
The announcement comes after a contentious week of political debate over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was narrowly confirmed Saturday by the Senate despite the sexual misconduct allegations against him. The announcement also comes as 2018 midterms loom.
According to Axios, she discussed her resignation with Trump last week when she visited him at the White House.
Her news shocked a number of senior foreign policy officials in the Trump administration, according to Jonathan Swan - who is a National political reporter with Axios who covers the Trump presidency and Republican leaders.
“This comes as a surprise. Ambassador Haley has been a very strong and effective advocate for the U.S. She and SG have had a very strong working relationship which has avoided what could have been a breakdown of the U.S./U.N. relationship," one senior diplomat told CNN.
With Haley’s departure at the end of the year, five women will be left on Trump’s cabinet: Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda E. McMahon, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gina Haspel, Secretary of Education Elisabeth Prince DeVos, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
Former White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman took the opportunity of Haley’s resignation news to praise Haley and bash Trump, as losing her “will be more of a statement of #45’s lack of diversity in this admin.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a government watchdog group, asked the State Department Monday to investigate whether Haley broke rules by accepting flights on private jets, according to the Post and Courier.
According to the report, Haley took the four flights on a plane belonging to Jimmy Gibbs, chief executive of Gibbs International in Spartanburg, SC. The flights were worth $24,000, according to the group, but Haley valued the cost at $3,219.
Tom Price, former Health and Human Services Secretary, resigned in September 2017 following public ire for his use of chartered flights for state business.
Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also took fire for spending hundreds of thousands on first-class flights during his tenure.
Haley clashed with the administration, announcing Russian sanctions in April, only to have the administration walk back the sanctions amid reports of Trump’s anger.
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s national economic adviser, called Haley’s announcement “momentary confusion,” to which she responded, "With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” the New York Times reported.
Nevertheless, in September, she penned a Washington Post opinion piece criticizing the anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times that criticized the president. She described a productive working relationship with the president.
“I have very open access to the president,” she said. “He does not shut out his advisers, and he does not demand that everyone agree with him. I can talk to him most any time, and I frequently do. If I disagree with something and believe it is important enough to raise with the president, I do it. And he listens. Sometimes he changes course, sometimes he doesn’t. That’s the way the system should work.”
Haley served as governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, the first woman and Indian-American to serve as governor in that state and the second Indian-American governor after Bobby Jindal, who served as Louisiana’s governor.
Before becoming governor, she served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for several years.
She was born Nimrata Randhawa in Bamberg, SC, to an Indian-American Sikh family.
She is married to Michael Haley. They have two children.