Beware GOP Darling, Nikki Haley

Ambitious as Lucifer, ruthless as Machiavelli, shady as fuck.

ON OCTOBER 3, 2018, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tendered her resignation to President Trump—although it would take six more days until the media heard about her departure. The break-up was amicable, her relationship with the president apparently, and fantastically, intact: “She’s done a fantastic job, and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump told reporters. “She’s a fantastic person, very importantly, but she also is somebody that gets it.” But the circumstances surrounding her resignation a year ago, as well as her sudden media re-emergence this past week, demand closer scrutiny.

Only a year before she gave notice, Haley was angling for a promotion. In the fall of 2017, Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, had drawn the ire of the president for reportedly calling him “a fucking moron.” Tillerson’s departure was all but assured. The only question was who Trump would tap to replace him. Haley wanted the gig—and was willing to go to great lengths to secure it.

As Michael Wolff relates in Fire & Fury, which chronicles the Trump White House at that time, “those who could overcome shame or disbelief—and, despite all Trumpian coarseness and absurdity, suck up to him and humor him—might achieve unique political advantage. As it happened, few could.” Nikki Haley, Machiavelli’s wet dream, was one of the few.

Wolff continues:

Haley—“as ambitious as Lucifer,” in the characterization of one member of the senior staff—had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent. Haley had courted and befriended Ivanka, and Ivanka had brought her into the family circle, where she had become a particular focus of Trump’s attention, and he of hers….

The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future. Haley, who was much more of a traditional Republican, one with a pronounced moderate streak…was, evident to many, being mentored in Trumpian ways. The danger here, offered one senior Trumper, “is that she is so much smarter than him.”

Whatever the president’s feelings, Haley’s promotion did not come to pass. Other Trump insiders, fearing her ascendant stature in the administration, blocked the move, and she remained at the UN.

On Realtime with Bill Maher three months later to promote Fire & Fury, Wolff revealed that Trump was having an affair, and hinted that his paramour may be Nikki Haley. Haley vehemently denied this rumor, calling it—and, by implication, the notion of sex with Trump—“disgusting.” However, in his June 2019 follow-up book, Siege: Trump Under Fire, Wolff doubled down, reporting that in the fall of 2017, Trump bragged to multiple confidantes that Haley “had given him a blowjob—his words.” Probably this is the congenitally insecure Trump boasting about invented sexual conquests, as is his wont. But if Darling Nikki really is as ambitious as Lucifer, as Wolff suggests, performing fellatio on the short-fingered vulgarian seems a small if “disgusting” price to pay for eventually succeeding him in the Oval Office.

On September 5, 2018, another unflattering portrait of the Trump White House emerged. And unlike Fire & Fury, this one was coming from inside the House. An anonymous White House official unloaded on Trump in an op-ed in the New York Times. Two days later, in response to that notorious cri de coeur, Haley published an op-ed in the Washington Post, headlined, “When I challenge the president, I do it directly. My anonymous colleague should have, too.” The short piece ends thus:

To Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, I say: Step up and help the administration do great things for the country. If you disagree with some policies, make your case directly to the president. If that doesn’t work, and you are truly bothered by the direction of the administration, then resign on principle. There is no shame in that. But do not stay in your position and secretly undermine the president and the rest of our team. It is cowardly, it is anti-democratic, and it is a disservice to our country.

A month later, Haley resigned. Whether she had done so “on principle,” as she hints at in her op-ed, or if she had merely reached her threshold of “shame and disbelief,” is unclear. All we can say for sure is that once she left, she stayed off the radar for almost a year.

That—and the White House, curiously, sat on the story for almost a week. What was the hold-up?

ON OCTOBER 2, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist living in the United States, went to the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul to apply for a marriage license. He would not leave alive, assassinated in gruesome fashion by a team of Saudi hit men. The CIA concluded that the hit had been ordered by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia—Mohammad bin Salman, or MBS.

The optics of this were potentially devastating for Donald Trump, as well as his senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner enjoyed a cozy relationship with MBS, operating as the de facto ambassador to the Kingdom. It was the bond between the “two princes” that led to Saudi Arabia being President Trump’s first foreign state visit—and, perhaps, to Kushner securing the ten-figure loan he desperately needed to keep his family real estate business solvent. The Intercept reported that Kushner had provided MBS with classified intelligence that informed the crown prince’s subsequent purge of the royal family. MBS reportedly bragged that Kushner was “in my back pocket.” According to reports, the CIA had advance knowledge of a plot against Khashoggi; it seems unthinkable that Kushner, if not Trump, was unaware. Kushner was known to consume the President’s Daily Briefing from the IC. If he did in fact know that Khashoggi was in peril, then Kushner failed in his “duty to warn,” and thus violated the law. Haley, meanwhile, likely knew about the assassination within hours of it happening.

To recap: in late September 2018, Nikki Haley writes a piece blasting her “anonymous” colleague and defending Donald Trump. “I proudly serve in this administration,” she declares, “and I enthusiastically support most of its decisions and the direction it is taking the country.” A few weeks later, within hours of Khashoggi’s murder, she abruptly and unexpectedly resigns.

But the actual date of the resignation is murky. Although Haley gave Trump notice on October 3, the press was not informed until October 9—a day after CREW, a Washington watchdog group, demanded she “should be investigated to determine if she complied with ethics regulations when she accepted seven free flights for herself and her husband on luxury private aircraft from three South Carolina businessmen.” Compared with the misdeeds committed by her colleagues in the administration, this is like doing 58 in a 55 zone. Could it be that the Trump people waited until after the CREW report to announce Haley’s resignation, to provide a logical if unstated impetus that was not related to Khashoggi?

In her remarks after the resignation, Haley was effusive in her praise of both Trump and Kushner. "I can't say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka,” she told reporters. “Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands.” Wolff’s Fire & Fury suggests that Haley was tight with the president’s daughter and son-in-law. If so, the Kushner comment was likely sincere. Next to a dullard like Trump, Jared might seem like a genius. Even so, the modifier—hidden—is a shall-we-say enigmatic choice.

And now, a year later, with the impeachment inquiry underway, Haley has poked her head up again, defending the president via tweet and interview. Her new memoir, With All Due Respect—the sort of book potential candidates put out before ambitious campaigns—drops today. I have long warned of a nightmare scenario in which the Democrats, believing the fallacy that the only way to defeat an old white man is with another old white man, panic-nominate Joe Biden—only to have Trump be replaced on the 2020 ticket by Haley. Would the desire to elect the first woman president trump (pun intended) the obligation to “vote blue no matter who” among Democrats? I’d rather not find out.

With the administration mired in scandal, and Mike Pence also complicit in the Ukraine extortion, Haley’s presidential prospects look as rosy as ever. Her Twitter feed, meanwhile, with its boilerplate defense of the indefensible president, is nothing more than a vehicle through which she assuages and reassures Trump. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks; she tweets for an audience of one. Her old boss is the one who can oust Pence from the 2020 ticket, after all, and so she blows him figuratively, rather than literally. She “gets it,” as Trump put it.

By all indications, Haley is positioning herself for a presidential run. But is she planning to run in 2024, or in 2020?

And if she runs next year…will it be as the incumbent?

WHILE WOLFF’S insinuation of a Trump affair (or a Trump hummer) must be taken with a grain of salt (or an emoji of vomit), his overall characterization of Nikki Haley—ambitious, smart, conniving, willing to suck up to (or suck off) Trump if it means she one day succeeds him as POTUS—seems perfectly believable. Let’s assume Wolff was correct, and that Haley is chasing after grander ambitions. What’s her next move? She has to woo Trump’s troglodytic base, which likely disdains her for being a woman of color, while at the same time assuring non-Fascist Americans that President Haley would not be President Trump in lipstick and heels. It’s a hard needle to thread, certainly, but not impossible.

Haley’s chances for higher office will ultimately hinge on how much she’s been tainted by her association with Donald Trump. Specifically, did the timing of her resignation have anything to do with the Khashoggi assassination? Did Kushner and Trump’s failure to warn Khashoggi compel her to “resign on principle,” as she advised “Anonymous” to do in the op-ed she wrote a month before quitting? If so, why didn’t she voice her concerns at the time? Why doesn’t she voice them now?

Another possibility is more harrowing: She has made a Faustian bargain to take the Oval Office. Her buddy Kushner, knowing that his complicity in the Khashoggi murder would doom him if it ever came out, asked her to step down—so that she might be brought back later on, this time as vice president, either for the 2020 campaign or sooner, if Pence was forced to resign. This way, if Trump was removed from office by the Senate, or if he resigned, Haley would assume the presidency, and would subsequently pardon everybody—thus fulfilling her end of the bargain. In this scenario, Nikki Haley is a one-woman sleeper cell, poised to wake and save the Trumps from ADX Florence. That would certainly explain the “hidden genius” remark.

It would work like this: Mike Pence would resign; Trump would nominate Haley as the new VP; as she is as “clean” a Republican as currently exists, the Senate and the House would likely approve her; Trump would resign; Haley would serve as Chief Executive for the remainder of Trump’s term, and run as the incumbent in 2020. In this scenario, she would wait until after the 2020 election to issue the Trump/Kushner pardons. If she lost, she’d do it on her way out the door; if she won, she wouldn’t have to face the electorate for four years.

While we are playing at speculation, here’s another Nikki Haley theory: she is “Anonymous.” After publishing the controversial op-ed in the New York Times, she then writes an op-ed attacking “Anonymous” in the Washington Post two days later. Talk about hidden genius! Similarly, she comes out with a memoir a week before the release of Anonymous’s A Warning—calling out the latter in the former. We know she’s been working on a book for the past year; is it not possible that she wrote two books simultaneously? Surely none of the dipshits in the White House would suspect her of such devious double-dealing. It’s like in Basic Instinct, when Sharon Stone wrote a book describing the same murder she carried out, and used it as a defense.

If true, it’s a Machiavellian masterstroke, and proof that Nikki Haley will do whatever it takes—ass-kissing, pardon-issuing, ghost-writing, maybe even Trump-sucking—to take the White House. Either way, the idea of Haley as POTUS is hard to swallow.