South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been tapped to serve as Donald Trump’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The 44-year-old, who is in her second and final term, has accepted the position, according to a Trump transition official with knowledge of the situation but who requested anonymity to speak candidly. The appointment will be announced Wednesday.
Haley’s appointment marks several firsts.
The daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants, she is the first woman and the first minority picked for a Cabinet-level post in Trump’s administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Haley would be the first person to enter the role with no direct previous foreign policy experience. Current U.N. ambassador Samantha Powers served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, working as a special assistant to the president and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights. Her predecessor Susan Rice, like many ambassadors to the U.N. before her, spent part of her career as a diplomat.
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Haley’s international experience centers on her work with foreign companies to attract commerce and economic development to South Carolina. Her husband served a year in Afghanistan with the South Carolina National Guard.
Another first – Haley’s appointment marks a turning point in Trump’s transition, which up to now has mainly focused on rewarding the loyalty of those who supported his White House bid.
The South Carolinian was critical of Trump during the presidential campaign, even using her high-profile position delivering the Republican State of the Union response in January to urge her party to resist “the siren call of the angriest voices.”
Haley also denounced Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S., saying in the nationally televised address “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country".
Trump hit back in his usual style, tweeting “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”
The governor endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., ahead of South Carolina’s Republican primary in February before lukewarmly supporting the Republican nominee.
"This election has turned my stomach upside down," she said last month. "It has been embarrassing for both parties. It's not something that the country deserves, but it's what we've got."
Haley was elected South Carolina’s first female and minority governor in 2010. She became a nationally recognized figure after her steady handling of the mass shooting in Charleston last year, where a white gunman killed nine black parishioners, as well as a historic flood a few months later. After the shooting, she convinced the state legislature to remove the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Capitol.
Born in Bamberg, South Carolina, Haley graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. She served in the state legislature before becoming governor.
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Haley would be replaced by the state’s Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, who was an early and vocal Trump supporter. Haley’s office did not return request for comment.