Departing United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley told the world 2019 will mean a fresh start for her in at least one other sense — adopting a new Twitter handle as she moves out of her public diplomacy role and, at least temporarily, into private life.
Haley announced Tuesday on the social media site that State Department rules required her to shut down her @AmbNikkiHaley account, with more than 1.6 million followers, and to clear "the followers, the history, the pictures, and all other content."
While her tweets and other content still appeared under her old handle after midnight Tuesday, the one-time South Carolina governor began posting new information as @NikkiHaley. And, as of early Wednesday, she already had accumulated 151,000 followers.
A former State Department official during the Obama administration said on twitter that restrictions were placed on social media use to try to assure that ambassadors and other officials didn't attempt to build their social media followings at the expense of U.S. objectives.
Some have speculated that Haley, 46, will run for higher officer, potentially even challenging President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. Former State Department official Graham Lampa speculated on Twitter that Haley's Twitter shutdown would differentiate her from what he called an "ethically-odious administration."
If her intent was to separate herself from Trump, though, Haley did it only incrementally. She also posted a tweet Tuesday thanking the president "for the honor of a lifetime" — serving at the U.N. The missive included a picture of her in the Oval Office, beside a beaming Trump.
Haley has not said what she plans to do next with her career, but on announcing her departure in early October, Haley said, "No, I'm not running for 2020."
She received a nod of approval Tuesday from the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump. "Thank you @NikkiHaley," the younger Trump said via Twitter, "we will be rooting for you as you begin your next exciting chapter!"
Former Trump administration insiders Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci joined conservative commentators Ben Shapiro and Jonah Godberg in urging people to follow Haley at her new Twitter address.