She was one of the few Trump administration officials to leave on her own terms and with reputation intact. And yet that hasn’t stopped outgoing United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley from joining a growing list of White House officials criticizing the boss on the way out the door.
At a lighthearted charity dinner Thursday night, Haley made a bunch of jokes about the administration, as is custom at this event: “He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N., I got to tell you.”
But then Haley got serious. Very serious. What she said next seemed directly aimed at President Trump’s increasingly alarmist rhetoric about Democrats being the party of “crime” or opponents of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh being “evil.”
In our toxic political environment, I’ve heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil. In America, our political opponents are not evil. In South Sudan, where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war — that is evil. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons to murder innocent children — that is evil. In North Korea, where American student Otto Warmbier was tortured to death — that was evil.
In the last two years, I’ve seen true evil. We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil. They’re just our opponents.
Forget anonymous New York Times op-eds from within the administration. Haley and these outgoing officials are putting their names to criticism of the president, sometimes while they still had their jobs.
Rex Tillerson: Don’t be like Trump. That, writes The Fix’s Aaron Blake, is what it sounded like Trump’s former secretary of state, who was fired by tweet — and apparently found out while using the toilet — seemed to say in his final speech to State Department employees. “This can be a very mean-spirited town. But you don’t have to choose to participate in that. Each of us get to choose the person we want to be, and the way we want to be treated, and the way we will treat others.”
H.R. McMaster: Trump’s former national security adviser also criticized the president as he was on his way out. In his last public remarks before leaving, McMaster appeared to directly confront Trump’s approach to Russia, saying: “Some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs.”
It did not seem like a coincidence that, just hours earlier, Trump had said, “Nobody is tougher on Russia than I am.”
David Shulkin: “It should not be this hard to serve your country.” That was the parting shot Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin left Washington with. He wrote that in a New York Times op-ed hours after he was fired by Trump on Twitter, and he also gave an interview to NPR. Rarely has an outgoing administration official been so vocal.
His criticism was twofold, and it focused less on Trump than on the people hired to serve Trump’s interests at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin said that they were maneuvering to privatize VA over his objections and that they overplayed what critics and the inspector general at VA called an ethically questionable trip with his wife to Europe to try to fire him.
“I was not allowed to put up an official statement or to even respond to this by the White House,” he told NPR. “ … I think this was really just being used in a political context to try to make sure that I wasn’t as effective as a leader moving forward.”
Gary Cohn: Trump’s former top economic adviser left relatively quietly, resigning in the spring after reports he was going to suddenly quit last summer when Trump said “both sides” were to blame for deadly white-supremacist attacks in Charlottesville.
But Cohn has been haunting the president ever since on economic policy. At a Washington Post Live event in June, he candidly said he thinks Trump’s tariffs could undermine the benefits of Republicans' tax bill. He also made it clear he didn’t agree with Trump’s intent to focus on trade deficits with other countries. (“I have always said a trade deficit doesn’t matter.”) Just this week he told CNBC, Trump shouldn’t be criticizing the Federal Reserve, which is an independent agency.
Donald McGahn: The White House counsel just left his job Wednesday, so he hasn’t had much time to talk publicly about his experience at the nexus of Trump’s efforts to undermine the independent Russia investigation into election interference. But he’s done a whole lot of private chatting that could be much more damaging to the president. The New York Times reported McGahn spent at least 30 hours talking to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators about the various ways Trump tried to end the investigation, including whether he tried to obstruct justice.
Omarosa Manigault Newman: Perhaps no one has left the White House in such a storm as Manigault Newman. A former “Apprentice” candidate, she was hired to help improve Trump’s relations with African Americans. She was fired in December and was out with a book by August calling Trump a racist, misogynist and bigot. Then she went on a week-long media blitz releasing tapes of her secret recordings with White House aides, fueling paranoia in the White House of what she might have — and, perhaps most damaging — who else might be recording whom.