Donald Trump plans to nominate South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be United Nations ambassador and offered former political rival Ben Carson the job of housing secretary, choices that would add a woman of South Asian descent and a black man to the president-elect’s administration.
Haley, 44, was the first woman to be elected governor of South Carolina, and she backed two of Trump’s opponents during the Republican primary campaign. Trump’s transition office on Wednesday morning announced his plan to nominate her and on a subsequent call with reporters said another Cabinet-level pick could be coming later in the day.
Haley and the president-elect had “a natural chemistry” when they met in the days after the election, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said. “It was a pretty easy pick.”
Carson, 65, is a retired neurosurgeon who sought the 2016 Republican presidential nomination before becoming an informal adviser to Trump. He’s never held elected office. Two people familiar with the matter confirmed that Trump had offered Carson the job, after Carson said Tuesday on Fox News that it was one of several options he would consider over the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone,” Carson said in a Facebook posting, adding that “an announcement is forthcoming about my role.”
Trump is in Florida for Thanksgiving as he and his team work to fill thousands of administration jobs before his January inauguration. He has already announced his choices for national security adviser, attorney general, and CIA director, while other major posts including secretaries of state, defense and the Treasury remain unfilled.
Haley has limited foreign policy experience. The daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants, Haley won a seat in South Carolina’s House of Representatives in 2004. During her first run for governor, in 2010, she won an endorsement from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She was re-elected in 2014.
In a statement, Haley said she was accepting Trump’s offer out of a “sense of duty.”
“When the president believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that’s important to heed,” she said.
Haley took at least eight trips abroad as governor, including to Germany, Sweden, France, the U.K., Japan, Canada, and India, mostly to attend trade shows and seek economic development opportunities in the automotive and aerospace industries, according to the Post and Courier newspaper, which first reported her nomination.
Matthew Rycroft, the U.K.’s ambassador to the UN, praised Haley in a statement on Wednesday.
“She will bring to the UN a strong track record of achievement from South Carolina, and I know that the U.K.-U.S. relationship will continue to go from strength to strength,” Rycroft said.
The governor’s national profile rose in 2015, when she had to deal with the aftermath of the killing of nine people at Charleston’s historically black Emanuel A.M.E. church in a racially motivated attack. A month later, her decision to support legislation ordering the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds won bipartisan praise nationally, though it was more controversial at home.
“That flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future,” Haley said. “By removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony.”
Six months later she again took the national spotlight, delivering the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address.
In the 2016 presidential race, Haley supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio and urged Trump to release his tax returns, a move he has yet to make. After Trump tweeted, “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley,” she responded with a tweet of her own to Trump: “Bless your heart.” After Rubio dropped out, Haley switched her support to Senator Ted Cruz.
Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina, according to her official biography. At 13, her first job was keeping the books for her family’s clothing store. She earned a degree in accounting from Clemson University.
Her nomination will require Senate confirmation. As U.S. ambassador to the UN, she would have to champion a Trump foreign policy that has at times been enigmatic if not contradictory. Trump has suggested the U.S. should have a better working relationship with Russia to fight terrorism in Syria, said he might recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and warned that Washington might not defend NATO allies who don’t “pay their fair share.”
She would succeed Samantha Power, who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book citing a moral duty to prevent genocide but had to defend before the world body Obama’s reluctance to intervene in Syria’s deadly civil war.
Richard Gowan, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Haley was a “positive choice” by Trump, adding that her political acumen should help her “win over a lot of diplomats who worry that the U.S. is going to disengage from the UN.” Nevertheless, he said she faces “a very tough learning curve,” and would have a daunting counterpart in Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin.
“The UN faces extremely volatile situations in cases from Syria to the Congo, and Haley will find herself pitched into some pretty rough crisis diplomacy from day one,” Gowan said. “Haley will have to rely on career U.S. diplomats at the UN to help her navigate tough negotiations with Churkin.”
Trump last week announced he’d chosen Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo for Central Intelligence Agency director, and former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn for national security adviser. He’s named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus his White House chief of staff and campaign CEO Stephen Bannon, formerly of Breitbart News, as his chief strategist and senior counselor.
Trump said earlier this week he was “seriously considering” Carson for the housing post. “He’s a greatly talented person who loves people!” Trump tweeted. The people who confirmed Trump’s offer did so on condition of anonymity because the move hadn’t been formally announced.
Carson said Tuesday on Fox News that “our inner cities are in terrible shape and they definitely need some real attention,” noting he’d grown up in one as a native of Detroit. Before running for president, he was a famed motivational speaker and writer.
HUD’s self-described mission is “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” Trump’s nominee for the housing post also will require confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate and would succeed Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio.
Raised by a single mother, Carson attended Yale University, where classmates said he was quiet and religious despite the turbulent times at the school.
Carson rose to national prominence for the successful 1987 separation of twins conjoined at the head at the John Hopkins Hospital, and his memoir, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” became a movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
Long a Democrat despite his vote for President Ronald Reagan, Carson became a conservative hero when he criticized Obama to his face at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.
During his campaign, the soft-spoken Carson faced questions over the accuracy of some parts of his biography, particularly his account of a knife attack on a friend that was stopped by the boy’s belt buckle.
Trump during the campaign compared Carson’s “pathological temper” to a permanent disposition like child molesting. “You don’t cure these people,” Trump said on CNN. “You don’t cure a child molester.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development could play an important role in Trump’s administration, after the Republican president-elect repeatedly pledged in his campaign to address problems plaguing inner-city minority communities. Most of the agency’s annual budget of over $37 billion goes to rental and homeless assistance programs across the country.
Policy changes at the agency could have ripple effects across the housing market. Carson could, for instance, roll back Obama administration initiatives that mandated a tenant’s criminal history not be a factor in housing, or put new restrictions on how long the federal government offers housing assistance. The department’s block-grant programs to underwrite construction of new housing and infrastructure could appeal to Trump, whose family fortune derives from his real estate business.
Carson would also have to grapple with the aftermath of a massive data breach discovered in September that potentially exposed the personal information of more than 425,000 public housing residents. Identifying data, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, were inadvertently made publicly available on the agency’s website.