In Donald Trump’s first meeting with Nikki Haley, on November 17, he asked her to serve as his secretary of state. Haley turned him down, according to two sources familiar with the conversation, telling the president-elect that she lacked the requisite foreign policy experience for the job.
The former South Carolina governor wound up instead as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — the first to enjoy Cabinet rank in a Republican administration since Jeane Kirkpatrick during Ronald Reagan’s first term. And with Rex Tillerson conducting his job almost entirely out of public view, Haley has improbably eclipsed the secretary of state as the country’s leading voice on foreign affairs.
Indeed, Haley has essentially had free reign in the job, cutting an unusually conspicuous media profile and avoiding the tense dealings that U.N. ambassadors often have with State.
“I think in her mind, the key issue that would normally exist — her relationship with the secretary of state — does not exist. She thinks she’s operating completely independently of him,” said a George W. Bush-era State Department official.