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Trump Picks S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley As U.N. Ambassador


We've learned a bit more about President-elect Donald Trump's expected foreign policy team. Trump will nominate South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She's a Republican, considered a rising star in the party and had been very, very critical of Donald Trump. Let's talk about this with NPR's Domenico Montanaro, who's our political editor. Domenico, good morning.


INSKEEP: What's Haley's relationship to Trump?

MONTANARO: Well, she's had kind of a thorny relationship with Trump throughout this campaign, quite frankly. You know, Trump called her position on refugees weak because the state allows refugees into the state who've been properly vetted. She had appeared on stage with Marco Rubio and endorsed him during the primary battle.

She even gave a state of - a response to the State of the Union - to Barack Obama's State of the Union - but basically was criticizing Donald Trump, saying that he would threaten the dream that is America for others. And yet, here she is, as - has accepted to be Donald Trump's ambassador to the United Nations.

INSKEEP: OK, there have been a lot of people who have been critical of Trump who've actually been openly hopeful that critics of Trump will end up in the administration and serve as some kind of moderating - moderating influence. But really, how's that work?

MONTANARO: Well, I think that's true. You know, in Haley, the thing is that I think a lot of - I think, at first, a lot of critics will say what you just said, which is that, you know, look, she's been critical of Trump, and maybe she'll moderate him somewhat or at least be a moderating voice in the - in the situation room or wherever. But she has very little foreign policy experience also. You know, she's just been governor of South Carolina for the past six years. She's 44 years old. She's the daughter of Indian immigrants, but not very much foreign policy or diplomacy experience. Of course, the ambassador to the U.N. speaks for the president, and that's a lot of what you're going to see or hear. But you're right, I mean, I think that, even in some of the other names that have been floated - people like Mitt Romney, potentially, for secretary of state - it does start to sound like a bit of a team of rivals. I think it also tells you that Donald Trump doesn't have many connections to a lot of these leaders. He doesn't have a whole team who he'd be bringing onboard. I mean, you can imagine if it was Hillary Clinton who became president that she would have this entire thing kind of locked up with everybody you would expect. But Donald Trump - always ready to surprise, and a lot of that is because he just doesn't have the connections in Washington.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking about who's been ambassador to the United Nations and what the job is - Samantha Power, the current U.N. ambassador. Susan Rice has had the job. John Bolton, I believe, had the job under George W. Bush - Adlai Stevenson, once upon a time. What is this job?

MONTANARO: Well, and all of those people had significant levels of foreign policy experience. You know, you can agree or disagree on their level of hawkishness or dovishness in one way or the other, but all of them did know the players. They understood foreign policy. They knew the depth and relationships. That's something Nikki Haley is going to have to learn, and it's going to be a steep learning curve off the bat.

INSKEEP: First woman nominated to a top job by Trump.

MONTANARO: That's true, and I think that there had been some criticism. Elizabeth Warren, the firebrand Democratic senator from Massachusetts, had said - had said when Mitt Romney met with Donald Trump that he should bring his binders full of women.


INSKEEP: From 2012, yeah.

MONTANARO: Right, because there weren't many women who Donald Trump was looking at. He's made up for a little bit of that here.

INSKEEP: OK, Domenico, thanks, as always.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.