Trump Haley

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters at United Nations headquarters in June. File/Mary Altaffer/AP 

Nikki Haley, the outgoing United Nations ambassador, said Wednesday she sometimes coordinated with President Donald Trump to use his seemingly unpredictable rhetoric to handle diplomatic issues on the world stage.

In her first TV interview since announcing her resignation, Haley told NBC's "Today" show she and the president worked as "partners" to use his bombastic comments on social media to America's political advantage.

"He would ratchet up the rhetoric, and then I'd go back to the ambassadors and say, 'You know, he's pretty upset. I can't promise you what he's going to do or not, but I can tell you if we do these sanctions, it will keep him from going too far,' " Haley told NBC's Craig Melvin, a former South Carolina TV anchor.

"So you were playing good cop, bad cop?" Melvin followed up.

"I was trying to get the job done," Haley replied.

Though she held the post for less than two years, Haley said her proudest accomplishment during her time at the U.N. was successfully urging the international body to pass sanctions against North Korea.

She also has some strong thoughts on how America should handle another international issue: The slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"I think we need to have a serious hard talk with the Saudis to let them know we won't condone this, we won't give you a pass and don't do this again," Haley said.

Trump, meanwhile, has continued to stand behind Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, despite findings from CIA reports that reportedly indicate the Saudi royal ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

Haley noted in the interview the Saudis have been an important ally in dealing with Iran, but she pushed back when asked if Trump's denial had anything to do with his son-in-law Jared Kushner's friendship with the royals.

"Those rumors fly all the time. We have relationships with lots of countries and our goal is to make those relationships better. But when these things happen, we have to step back and never back away from our principles," she said.

When Haley stepped down as governor of South Carolina in 2017 to accept Trump's offer to serve as U.N. ambassador, she was confirmed to the international role four days after his inauguration despite having no international foreign policy experience.

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.


Trump's pick to replace Haley is State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who previously worked as a Fox News reporter. Like Haley, Nauert would come to the job with little foreign policy experience.

Haley said the secret to working with Trump came down to two things: "Being honest with myself and being honest with him."

Now that Haley is leaving public political life, questions are flying about whether she's eyeing a presidential run of her own.

When pressed about her future plans, specifically 2024, Haley insists she has none at this time.

"I think a lot of people have talked about what I may be doing in the future, but I can promise you, Michael and I have never talked about running for president, what that would look like or anything like that," she said, referring to her husband. 

"The only decision that I've made right now is that I'm looking forward to sleeping in," Haley quipped.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.