President Obama’s pick to be the next ambassador of Iraq has withdrawn his nomination amid allegations and emails detailing an affair with a reporter covering him while he was stationed in Iraq.
The White House confirmed Monday that Brett McGurk withdrew himself from consideration to be ambassador to Iraq, one day before he was scheduled to get a confirmation vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Republicans expressed resistance to Obama’s pick after the emails, which contained racy exchanges between McGurk and Chon, surfaced on a website that posts leaked documents. The senators asked Obama to withdraw McGurk from consideration.
McGurk's withdrawal, which was first reported by The New York Times, came Monday in a letter to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where he wrote that he was stepping aside because Iraq needed an ambassador quickly — implying that his nomination was sure to lead to a fight in the Senate.
“Iraq urgently needs an ambassador,” McGurk wrote in the letter, obtained by the Times. “The country is in the midst of a political crisis and our mission is undergoing rapid transformation.”
McGurk also wrote that he was considering the toll the situation had taken on Chon, who resigned from the Wall Street Journal this month over the relationship.
“The most difficult part of this process, however, was watching my wife become a part of it,” he wrote. “She is the most precious thing in the world to me, and the depiction of our relationship has been both surreal and devastating. We have also witnessed real sacrifice and suffering in Iraq and know that nothing should be allowed to distract from the pressing work that must be done to build a better future there.”
White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in an email the Obama administration regretted that McGurk had withdrawn his nomination.
"He served in two administrations, and his commitment to the national interest and to the mission was always clear," Vietor said. "While we regret to see Brett withdraw his candidacy there is no doubt that he will be called on again to serve the country."