Even Nikki Haley can be surprised by Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations opened up to a University of Chicago crowd about the challenges she faces working for a president who can surprise even members of his own administration by making major announcements via tweet.
“When I wake up, I don't know what he’s going to tweet about,” Haley said, laughing. “So you know, you're always kind of moving through life with his tweets in mind.”
Haley talked to former Obama advisor David Axelrod for the late February event, saying she takes Trump’s Twitter habit as just a part of the job.
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“This clearly is a president who likes social media,” Haley said. “And so for everybody that, you know, doesn’t like his tweets, it’s not going to stop. That's who he is. It's what he does.”
Haley’s colleagues from other countries at the United Nations are just as interested in the president’s Twitter feed, often taking Trump’s tweeted comments “very seriously.”
“I found that in the U.N., they’re like glued to his tweets,” Haley said. “So everything he says or does they take seriously. That’s the president speaking. ...
“And they react accordingly. So if we’re trying to push something against chemical weapons and he puts something out there, they take that very seriously.”
In addition to her role as Trump’s spokesman to the rest of the world, Haley told Axelrod she coached Trump on how to handle the world body when he spoke to the U.N. General Assembly in September.
“I said, ‘OK now, Mr. President, you need to understand this is a serious crowd. They’re not going to rally. They're not going to cheer. That's just not who these people are. So don't take it the wrong way,” Haley recalled. “I said, ‘Just think of it as church.’ ”
Trump also asked Haley’s opinion on his nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – “Little Rocket Man” – and whether he should use it during his address, the ambassador said.
“I said, ‘Well, it’s kind of a formal crowd,’ ” Haley recounted. “ ‘It would be different.’ ”
But Trump went ahead and used the moniker in his speech, adding, “If (the U.S.) is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
“He said, ‘I think it’s catchy, I think it works,’ ” Haley said of the nickname.
Haley said other world leaders also have used the nickname in conversations with her since Trump’s speech.
The former S.C. governor also spoke about the more serious side of her job. She said she has taken advice on negotiating from Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
“Put yourself in your adversary’s shoes, understand what he or she wants and use that to guide your negotiations,” Haley said the elder statesman told her. “You don’t have to agree with them, and most of the time you won’t, but you have to understand where they’re coming from.”
She also defended some of Trump’s more controversial decisions, including blocking the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to the contested city of Jerusalem.
“This was our decision. We did not say anything about defining the borders of Israel, or the peace process — that is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to decide,” she said.