Nikki Haley was just doing her job.
On Sunday (April 15), Haley, who serves as the US ambassador to the United Nations, announced that the Trump administration was planning to impose new sanctions on Russia. Haley said the sanctions would go into effect the following day.
But unbeknownst to Haley, the White House had reportedly decided to change direction—without telling her. According to the the New York Times, Donald Trump “grew angry” watching Haley make the announcement on TV, suggesting that “he had decided no such thing.” What happened next exposes both the crisis of communication within the White House and the administration’s eagerness to throw Haley under the bus.
In an effort to fix the situation, and hopefully hide the evidence that no one in the Trump administration knows what’s going on, the White House resorted to a classic move: Blame the mistake on the woman involved.
Haley “got ahead of the curve,” the president’s economics advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. “She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that.”
The ambassador, who is in the tricky position of attempting to conduct international relations and maintain credibility despite Trump’s mercurial approach to politics, stood her ground.
“With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” she said Tuesday, speaking with Fox News host Dana Perino.
Kudlow promptly apologized, saying that he was “totally wrong” to call Haley confused. “The policy was changed and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box,” he told New York Times White House reporter Julie Davis.
But the underlying issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon. This kind of miscommunication is symptomatic of a deep disconnect within the administration. And Haley’s refusal to take the blame suggests that she, like former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, is on her way to openly disagreeing with the White House.
Tillerson’s habit of questioning Trump’s foreign policy decisions was what ultimately cost him his job. A White House official explained to Quartz that while the president will accept disagreements within the cabinet, “it is another thing to have them publicly come out and offer viewpoints that routinely” contradict the president.
Haley hasn’t shied away from sharing her views publicly. Although she reportedly ramped up her loyalty to the president after being a vocal critic of Trump during his presidential campaign, she has already exposed unflattering details about the administration’s functioning, in one instance claiming (in apparent earnestness) that not knowing the president’s plans “makes it interesting.”
Rumors about Haley’s possible ouster have been circulating for a while. The president himself joked about the possibility about a year ago, saying that she would be “easily replaceable.” Given Haley’s refusal to be patronized, the time of her exit may be drawing near.