Nikki Haley's resignation comes one day after an ethics watchdog requested an investigation into her acceptance of free flights on private jets

Nikki HaleyNikki Haley.Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley's abrupt Tuesday resignation came one day after an ethics watchdog group requested a State Department inspector general investigation into her acceptance of seven free flights aboard private jets from a trio of South Carolina businessmen.

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, listed the flights on her 2017 financial disclosure and asserted that each qualified for an exception based on her personal relationship with the businessmen. But the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in its complaint that Haley's financial disclosure did not provide enough information to make the assertion that the flights between New York, Washington, DC, and three South Carolina cities qualified for the exemption.

Those flights were likely worth tens of thousands of dollars, CREW suggested.

"Whether the exception applies depends partly on whether the three businessmen were the only sources of the gifts; if business entities were sources of the gifts, the exception was inapplicable," CREW wrote. "Federal ethics regulations prohibit employees from soliciting or accepting gifts given because of the employee's official position."

The three businessmen who provided the flights to Haley and her husband were Jimmy Gibbs, CEO of Gibbs International, Smyth McKissick, and Mikee Johnson. The latter two are CEOs of private companies in South Carolina.

"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," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a Monday statement.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned last year amid a controversy involving his air travel. Other top Trump administration officials, such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, have came under fire for their air travel practices.

Former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub noted on Twitter Tuesday that Haley's resignation came after CREW filed its complaint.

Haley's resignation caught Washington, DC, and the diplomatic community by surprise. She announced her departure less than a month after the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

Haley was one of the foreign policy and Washington establishment's favorite Trump administration leaders. Some even speculated that she would soon run for president herself. In announcing her resignation alongside President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Haley knocked down any thought that she would run for president in 2020, saying she would be campaigning for Trump.

"It has been an honor of a lifetime," Haley said of serving as UN ambassador.

In the meeting, Trump told reporters that Haley told him about six months ago that she would want to depart from the job after serving for two years. He added that she will stay on through the end of the year.

"She's done a fantastic job and we've done a fantastic job together," Trump said.

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