Trump officials have talked to Goldman Sachs' Dina Powell about possibly replacing Nikki Haley as UN ambassador 

  • Senior White House officials have held discussions with the former deputy national security advisor Dina Powell about succeeding outgoing Nikki Haley as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, three sources tell CNBC.
  • One of these sources says Powell has become a favorite among people close to Trump to lead the U.S. delegation.
  • A source familiar with her thinking says she's happy at the investment bank and has yet to make a decision about another career-defining move.
President Donald Trump, flanked by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Donald Trump, flanked by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell.

Dina Powell, a Goldman Sachs executive and former deputy national security advisor to President Donald Trump, has had discussions with senior members of the administration about possibly succeeding Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In the days leading up to Haley's sudden and surprising resignation Tuesday, senior White House officials reached out to Powell about possibly taking the role, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Because of these conversations and her experience, Powell has become one of the leading candidates for the role in the eyes of some people close to the president, according to one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Trump confirmed late Tuesday that Dina Powell is on his short-list for U.N. ambassador, along with four other candidates that he did not name. Trump was speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to Omaha, Nebraska.

Yet it is unclear how much interest Powell has in leaving Goldman again to rejoin the Trump team. A person familiar with her thinking said she is happy at the investment bank and has yet to make a decision about another career-defining move.

When asked Tuesday whether the administration had been talking to Powell, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "We have no announcements at this time."

A spokesman for Goldman Sachs did not return repeated requests for comment.

Powell, who worked for a decade at Goldman before joining the Trump administration, would have to be confirmed by the Senate if Trump were to nominate her. Haley sailed through her confirmation hearing with lawmakers approving her nomination by a vote of 96-4.

Trump and Haley announced her resignation Tuesday. She is expected to leave at the end of the year.

"As a strong supporter of term limits, I have long believed that rotation in office benefits the public," Haley said in her resignation letter to Trump, which was dated Oct. 3. "As a businessman, I expect you will appreciate my sense that returning from government to the private sector is not a step down but a step up."

Haley also said she has no intentions on running for public office in 2020.

A second go-round for Powell?

When Powell departed the White House in December, after less than a year on the job, several Trump advisors praised her and appeared to keep open the possibility that she could make a return.

"Dina Powell has been a key, trusted advisor in this administration. She has always planned to serve one year before returning home to New York, where she will continue to support the president's agenda and work on Middle East policy," Sanders said at the time.

Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, hinted that Powell would continue to be influential in the administration's efforts.

"Dina has done a great job for the administration and has been a valued member of the Israeli-Palestinian peace team," Kushner said then. "She will continue to play a key role in our peace efforts and we will share more details on that in the future."

Powerful connections

Before her return to Goldman, Powell was a power player within Trump's inner circle.

Powell, who was born in Egypt and immigrated with her family to the United States, was deeply involved in working to improve the administration's relationships with allies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

She attended the president's first meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. She also reportedly was involved in overseeing a $200 billion investment program between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Powell joined the administration along with Gary Cohn, a fellow former Goldman executive. Cohn, who served as Trump's top economic advisor, resigned from the White House in March after clashing with the president and others in the administration over trade policy.

Powell became particularly close with the president's elder daughter, Ivanka Trump, as they formed an alliance during the early stages of the Trump administration.

Haley, a close colleague of Powell's, was also known to be friendly with Ivanka Trump and Kushner.

Haley praised the couple during her resignation announcement Tuesday. "I can't say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka," she said. "Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands."

In a tweet after Haley declared she would be leaving, Ivanka Trump said that she was "grateful for her [Haley's] friendship."

Powell and Haley apparently also have a close relationship.

The outgoing U.N. ambassador tweeted a photo of herself, Powell and others spending time together in Haley's home state of South Carolina