On Tuesday, Nikki Haley abruptly resigned from her position as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, revealed to be leaving at the end of the year. Her move had little forewarning — outside, perhaps, of a call for an investigation into private businessman-funded flights she took that came literally the day before.
The call came from the prominent government ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which announced a push for the State Department’s inspector general to take up the matter. The issue includes seven private flights Haley took throughout 2017 between D.C. and New York City and cities in her home state of South Carolina, where she’d served as governor before joining up with the Trump administration. Haley did include the flights on federal financial disclosure forms, but she argued that they did not constitute cause for concern because of an established personal relationship with the businessmen.
In other words, she says, the flights didn’t constitute the businessmen attempting to grow favor with them in government; they were just gifts passed between friends. CREW, though, says not so fast.
The group’s executive director, Noah Bookbinder, commented:
‘By accepting gifts of luxury private flights, Ambassador Haley seems to be falling in line with other Trump administration officials who are reaping personal benefits from their public positions. Our ethics laws are clearly written to prevent even the appearance of corruption and improper influence.’
He adds that even if it is true that the pre-existing personal relationships between Haley and the businessmen made the flights perfectly sensible, the soon to be former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations should have been more careful about stirring up even the appearance of corruption. The textile machine company Gibbs International Inc.’s CEO Jimmy Gibbs covered four of the flights, while the other three were picked up by Alice Manufacturing CEO Smyth McKissick and Mikee Johnson, then-CEO of Cox Industries, a family wood business.
Ironically, Haley is far from the first Trump official to have their travel scrutinized. Although it’s not immediately clear that the just beginning controversy did really have much to do with her departure, she’s not even the first Trump official to leave their position while facing such a cloud. The now former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt did as well.
Price resigned after it came out that he’d spent over $1 million in taxpayer money on private flights and used military aircraft to get around at times, too. His departure came first.
Some time after that incident, facing a cloud of scandal including his incessant insistence on expensive travel and security methods, Pruitt left his position.
At present, the Trump White House is maintaining an about-face when it comes to Haley’s abrupt exit. Before the announcement, although she’d occasionally broken with the president, she presided over the United Nations front of the Trump administration’s reshaping of American foreign policy.
Appearing before reporters while sitting next to Haley on Tuesday, the president said:
‘She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together. We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose you.’
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