Nikki Haley, Once a Critic of Trump, 'Encouraged' After Meeting With Him

by | November 18, 2016

By Bristow Marchant

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley met Thursday with President-elect Donald Trump in New York, but details of the meeting were scarce.

"Governor Haley was pleased to meet with President-elect Trump," said Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey. "They had a good discussion, and she is very encouraged about the coming administration and the new direction it will bring to Washington."

S.C. Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, the first statewide official in the country to endorse Trump, said Wednesday that Haley was a contender for secretary of state and one other post, speculated to be secretary of the commerce. McMaster also said Trump's transition team had reached out to him about possibly being U.S. attorney general.

Haley's meeting with Trump came a day after she was elected vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, a nationally visible post that puts her in line to become the chair of the GOP group in 2018.

Kellyanne Conway, manager of Trump's presidential campaign, told reporters at New York's Trump Tower about the Trump-Haley meeting, showing off a photo of herself with Haley. "We're just happy to have her here for her advice and her counsel, and hearing about the great success story that is South Carolina under her leadership," Conway said.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, said he would support Haley as Trump's secretary of state.

"She's talented, capable and would do a good job in any assignment given to her," said Graham, a longtime Trump critic. "Nikki is a traditional Republican when it comes to foreign policy -- more like Ronald Reagan than (Republican U.S. Sen.) Rand Paul. I like her a lot. I would certainly support her."

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, agreed. "She is a natural leader, and I think our country would benefit greatly from her leadership if she were to be nominated for a position," said Scott, who originally was appointed to a Senate vacancy by Haley.

However, S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said Haley is not prepared to be secretary of state. "The question is does she have any foreign policy experience?" said Harrison. "I don't think so."

The nation's top diplomat needs to understand the history between the United States and other nations, and know who the players and world leaders are, Harrison said. "I just don't think that she has that."

An appointment as secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department would be more fitting for Haley, Harrison said. "She ran as the jobs governor," Harrison said, adding he gives Haley credit for helping attract major corporations to South Carolina.

Haley was a critic of Trump during the GOP primary campaign.

In January's GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, Haley urged voters to ignore "the siren call of the angriest voices," a slap at Trump. She also endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the S.C. Republican primary over Trump. Later, after Rubio dropped out of the race, Haley endorsed Trump's last remaining challenger, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Trump lashed out at Haley on Twitter, saying, "The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!"

Haley responded dismissively, "Bless your heart."

At the annual Gridiron dinner in March, the daughter of Indian immigrants joked, "Even though I gave the (State of the Union) response, I won't really feel like I made it until Donald Trump demands to see my birth certificate."

Haley's tone brightened after Trump was elected. "After a hard-fought campaign, where we have seen great passion and frustration among voters, the people have spoken," Haley said in a statement after the election. "This is an opportunity for the country to unite and work together."

At the Republican Governors Association meeting earlier this week, Haley said she was "giddy" about Republicans controlling Congress and the White House.

Staff writer Jane Moon Dail, McClatchy reporter Matthew Schofield and media pool reports contributed.

(c)2016 The State (Columbia, S.C.)