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Top Dem Decries 'Leadership Vacuum,' 'National Security Impact' of Haley's Resignation

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in the Oval Office on Oct. 9, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Just four senators voted against UN Ambassador Nikki Haley when she was confirmed four years ago, and now the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says he’s “deeply concerned about the leadership vacuum she leaves and the national security impact of her departure at this time of continued disarray for this administration.”

President Trump announced today that Haley had handed in her resignation, a move that surprised many in the administration.

As Haley was sitting alongside Trump in the Oval Office, the president praised her as “very special to me” and “somebody that gets it.”

“And she told me probably six months ago — she said, ‘You know, maybe at the end of the year — at the end of a two-year period but the end of the year, I want to take a little time off, I want to take a little break,'” he said. “…I can speak for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He thinks the world of Nikki.”

Trump told Haley that “hopefully you’ll be coming back at some point… maybe a different capacity, you can have your pick.”

Haley singled out Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump for praise in her remarks.

“Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands. I mean, to redo the NAFTA deal the way he did; what I’ve done working with him on the Middle East Peace Plan, it’s so unbelievably well done. And Ivanka has been just a great friend,” Haley said. “And they do a lot of things behind the scenes that I wish more people knew about, because we’re a better country because they’re in this administration.”

“I’m not leaving until the end of the year. My goal is that we make sure that everything is in good place for the next ambassador to come in.”

Haley said she doesn’t “have anything set on where I’m going to go,” but “for all of you that are going to ask about 2020, no, I’m not running for 2020.”

“My family is very supportive. So no, there’s no personal reasons,” she added. “I think that it’s just very important for government officials to understand when it’s time to step aside.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee and is behind strong sanctions legislation against North Korea, called Haley “a powerful voice” at the UN and said she has been an “incredible partner” implementing a “maximum pressure doctrine on North Korea.”

“I’m confident that we will be able to continue to build on the strong foundation she solidified in her role as UN ambassador,” Gardner said.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member on Foreign Relations, thanked Haley in a statement “for her willingness to express moral clarity to the world and to President Trump, and promote American values and leadership on the global stage, even when she lacked the backing of the White House or State Department.”

“This administration’s continued inability to adequately or appropriately fill key national security positions puts our nation at risk,” Menendez added. “The president and secretary of State must immediately name a new ambassador to the United Nations for the Senate’s consideration, and commit to a pragmatic path forward that embraces America’s history of shaping the international institutions that have elevated America’s role in promoting peace, human rights, and security around the world.”

Menendez promised “a thorough, accurate, and vigorous confirmation process for Ambassador Haley’s successor.”

Haley spent time over the weekend in South Carolina with former Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, who may be a top contender for the job. Powell stepped down in January, citing a need to be closer to her family in New York City.

Also being floated as a possible contender for the appointment is U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, whose confirmation passed the Senate 56-42 in April. Grenell served at the UN as the U.S. director of communications and public diplomacy during both terms of the Bush administration.

Trump could also possibly send his third national security advisor, John Bolton, back to the UN, where he served as ambassador from August 2005 to December 2006.

If Trump looks to a loyal lawmaker to fill the post, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been spending time golfing with the president and unleashed on Democrats during the Brett Kavanaugh nomination fight.

Graham said in a statement that Haley “has done an outstanding job” at the UN “and showed a level of effectiveness rarely seen by someone in this position.”

“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,” he said, adding that 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.”