CNN
Now playing
02:04
Trump's big announcement on Nikki Haley
Now playing
02:05
Haley: It has been an honor of a lifetime
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley listens during a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting concerning the situation in Syria, at United Nations headquarters, April 14, 2018 in New York City.  Yesterday the United States and European allies Britain and France launched airstrikes in Syria as punishment for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's suspected role in last week's chemical weapons attacks that killed upwards of 40 people. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley listens during a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting concerning the situation in Syria, at United Nations headquarters, April 14, 2018 in New York City. Yesterday the United States and European allies Britain and France launched airstrikes in Syria as punishment for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's suspected role in last week's chemical weapons attacks that killed upwards of 40 people. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:04
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley resigns
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 5: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley holds up photos of victims of the Syrian chemical attack during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at U.N. headquarters, April 5, 2017 in New York City. The Security Council is holding emergency talks on Wednesday following the worst use of chemical weapons in Syria since the Ghouta attack in 2013. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 5: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley holds up photos of victims of the Syrian chemical attack during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at U.N. headquarters, April 5, 2017 in New York City. The Security Council is holding emergency talks on Wednesday following the worst use of chemical weapons in Syria since the Ghouta attack in 2013. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:44
Watch Nikki Haley on the world stage
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during UN Security Council meeting, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018.
The UN Security Council on Saturday opened a meeting at Russia's request to discuss military strikes carried out by the United States, France and Britain on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack. Russia circulated a draft resolution calling for condemnation of the military action, but Britain's ambassador said the strikes were "both right and legal" to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria.
 / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during UN Security Council meeting, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018. The UN Security Council on Saturday opened a meeting at Russia's request to discuss military strikes carried out by the United States, France and Britain on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack. Russia circulated a draft resolution calling for condemnation of the military action, but Britain's ambassador said the strikes were "both right and legal" to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMALHECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:48
Kudlow on Haley: She got ahead of the curve
UNTV
Now playing
01:50
Haley slams Russia at UN Security Council
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley listens during a UN Security Council meeting, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018.
The UN Security Council on Saturday opened a meeting at Russia's request to discuss military strikes carried out by the United States, France and Britain on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack. Russia circulated a draft resolution calling for condemnation of the military action, but Britain's ambassador said the strikes were "both right and legal" to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria.
 / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL        (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley listens during a UN Security Council meeting, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018. The UN Security Council on Saturday opened a meeting at Russia's request to discuss military strikes carried out by the United States, France and Britain on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack. Russia circulated a draft resolution calling for condemnation of the military action, but Britain's ambassador said the strikes were "both right and legal" to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:00
Haley: Pictures of dead kids weren't fake news
Now playing
02:14
Haley: Russia responsible for UK poisoning
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a brief press availability at United Nations headquarters, January 2, 2018 in New York City. She discussed protests in Iran and the North Korea nuclear threat.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a brief press availability at United Nations headquarters, January 2, 2018 in New York City. She discussed protests in Iran and the North Korea nuclear threat.
Now playing
01:21
Haley addresses "disgusting" rumor
CNN
Now playing
01:02
Haley: US will never accept nuclear N. Korea
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks to the media as she asks that the Confederate flag be removed from the state capitol grounds on June 22, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate over the flag flying on the capitol grounds was kicked off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks to the media as she asks that the Confederate flag be removed from the state capitol grounds on June 22, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate over the flag flying on the capitol grounds was kicked off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Now playing
00:47
Nikki Haley to be US ambassador to UN
gop rebuttal nikki haley enough blame_00000000.jpg
gop rebuttal nikki haley enough blame_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:16
Haley: 'There is more than enough blame to go around'
gop debate trump haley siren call vstan orig 06_00001422.jpg
gop debate trump haley siren call vstan orig 06_00001422.jpg
Now playing
01:08
Trump answers Gov. Haley's 'angriest voices' remark
Getty Images
Now playing
02:48
Nikki Haley's speech splits GOP
Sean Rayford/Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Now playing
01:50
Donald Trumps slams Nikki Haley on immigration
(CNN) —  

Departures from President Donald Trump’s Cabinet are rarely dignified affairs. Jettisoned officials have learned of their fates by tweet or ill-timed phone call or following a humiliating leak.

So it was a novelty Tuesday when Trump and outgoing Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley appeared together in the Oval Office, cheerfully announcing an end-of-year exit that caught most of the West Wing and State Department unaware and led to grumbles about inopportune political timing.

“I thought this would be an appropriate way of doing it. When you write it out on a piece of paper that ‘Ambassador Haley will be leaving’ and you say nice things, people say, ‘What’s going on?’ ” the President said. “When you really think somebody has done a terrific job, I felt this was an appropriate way of doing it.”

Appropriate or not, Haley’s decision to announce her resignation four weeks ahead of midterm congressional elections and immediately after a bruising Supreme Court confirmation battle that laid bare deep political faults on sex and gender led to questions about her timing.

And it exposed what has sometimes been a fraught relationship between Haley and other administration officials, who viewed her both as an effective face of administration policy and an ambitious political operator willing to break ranks.

That dynamic became apparent after Trump revamped the top of his national security team earlier this year, swapping more moderate advisers for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton. Those changes occurred last March – roughly the same time Haley first told the President of her intentions to resign.

’Time to step aside’

02:05 - Source: CNN
Haley: It has been an honor of a lifetime

In the Oval Office, Haley insisted she made her decision not for personal reasons, but because she felt she’d served long enough.

“I think that it’s just very important for government officials to understand when it’s time to step aside. And I have given everything I’ve got these last eight years,” she said, referring to time spent both as the UN envoy and as South Carolina governor. “And I do think that sometimes it’s good to – to rotate in other people who can put that same energy and power into it.”

Still, neither Trump nor his top aides were looking to announce the departure of one of the administration’s highest-profile women just as Republicans work to repair whatever damage was inflicted by an ugly confirmation fight for Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court justice who was accused by women of sexual assault.

Haley’s resignation letter was dated October 3 and officials said she informed the President of her intentions during a meeting in the Oval Office that day. The previous evening, Trump publicly mocked one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, during a Mississippi campaign rally, drawing condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike. Making Haley’s departure public then would have caused further complications for the Kavanaugh confirmation, officials said.

The lack of forewarning led to griping among some aides that Haley was again stepping out on her own on a day the President was still basking in the glow of the ultimately successful Kavanaugh nomination.

“A lot of people would celebrate,” Trump told reporters later as he was departing for a campaign rally in Iowa. “We go back to business the next day.”

’I don’t get confused’

01:44 - Source: CNN
Watch Nikki Haley on the world stage

As UN ambassador, Haley has carved out her own space in the public sphere as a prominent voice on issues ranging from alleged Syrian war crimes to Russia’s aggressive behavior around the globe, even when her rhetoric got ahead of the President’s views.

In recent months, however, Haley had lost clout with the President, two people familiar with their relationship noted in wake of her resignation. When Rex Tillerson was still secretary of state, Trump sought out Haley’s advice often and was regularly seen in the Oval Office, the people said.

But when the President orchestrated a revamp of his national security team – replacing Tillerson with Pompeo and bringing in Bolton, who served in the same UN post as Haley under President George W. Bush – Haley saw her time with the President diminish.

When she stepped out in April to announce the US would sanction Russian companies linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program, the White House refuted her the next day, announcing Trump had decided not to move forward with the sanctions. Some White House officials, including the President’s top economic adviser, were quick to discount her in public, claiming she was mistaken.

“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” Haley struck back, in a stunning statement.