Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Heather Nauert withdraws as Trump's nominee for ambassador to the UN

Ms Nauert withdrew her name from contention on Saturday. AP
Ms Nauert withdrew her name from contention on Saturday. AP

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdrew from consideration as President Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, she said in a statement.

Ms Nauert’s nomination began to falter after the White House was alerted to a problem in her background check. Ms Nauert had in the past employed an immigrant nanny who was in the US legally but wasn’t authorised to work.

That became politically untenable - and would almost certainly have come out in Ms Nauert’s confirmation hearing - given that halting illegal migration was a centrepiece of Trump’s campaign and has animated his fight to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

A day before Ms Nauert withdrew, Trump declared a national emergency to secure more money for the proposed wall, after Congress approved only about $1.4 billion in a spending deal.

“I am grateful to President Trump and Secretary Pompeo for the trust they placed in me for considering me for the position of US ambassador to the United Nations,” Ms Nauert said in the statement.

“However, the past two months have been gruelling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.”

The statement didn’t acknowledge the issue with Ms Nauert’s nanny or any other specific problem with her nomination.

Mr Trump had said in early December that he planned to nominate Ms Nauert, 49, to replace Nikki Haley as UN ambassador. Suspicion later mounted that her nomination was running into trouble because the White House never formally submitted her name for Senate confirmation, even after Haley resigned at year end.

State Department officials insisted there was nothing unusual in that delay, arguing that Attorney General William Barr’s nomination went more smoothly because he had already been confirmed once, in 1991. They also blamed the 35-day partial government shutdown and the complexity of the vetting process.

Ms Nauert was expected to face a thorny confirmation hearing given her lack of experience and the likelihood that she would be asked to answer for the Mr Trump administration’s scorn for international bodies, including the UN. In a speech in Brussels in December, Mr Pompeo made his doubts about the organisation clear, asking, “Does it continue to serve its mission faithfully?”

The president picked Ms Nauert after considering other potential nominees including former White House aide Dina Powell, Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, former US Senate candidate John James of Michigan and Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell - a favourite of National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Updated: February 17, 2019 05:45 AM