Trump inaugural donors who became ambassador picks facing qualification questions: report

At least 14 major contributors to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE’s inaugural fund were later nominated for ambassador posts, according to an NBC News investigation.

The 14 nominees donated an average of just over $350,000 each to the inaugural committee, which is now under federal investigation. Six of the nominees have stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. One nomination has been delayed for about two years, according to NBC.


The report notes that presidents often appoint donors to such positions.

Former President Obama nominated Kirk W.B. Wagar, who donated more than $200,000 to Obama and other Democrats during his reelection campaign, as ambassador to Singapore, while former President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Sweden and Liechtenstein, Mercer Reynolds, donated more than $100,000 to Republicans.

The total numbers are what makes Trump's situation unique, according to NBC.

Most modern presidents, including Obama and Bush, have nominated about two-thirds career diplomats and one-third political appointees for ambassadorships, according to the report. The split is closer to about half and half for the Trump administration, NBC reports, citing data from the American Foreign Service Association.

According to the analysis, the Trump administration has also fallen behind on ambassador confirmations. By this point in their first terms, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama had seen 96, 84 and 89 percent of their nominees confirmed, respectively, while only 66 percent of Trump’s have been confirmed.

R. Nicholas Burns, who served as undersecretary of State and ambassador to NATO under Bush and as ambassador to Greece under both Bush and Clinton, says the disparity is largely due to the White House’s slowness in submitting nominations. 

"What I don't know is if some of these people are being held up by the Democrats," Burns told NBC. "That sometimes happens."

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSaagar Enjeti says Corbyn's defeat in UK election represents 'dire warning' for Democrats Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Lankford to be named next Senate Ethics chairman MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has the procedural power to block a nominee’s hearing or committee vote, while any senator can delay a nomination before the full Senate, according to NBC News.

Menendez has frequently expressed skepticism about Trump's ambassadorial nominees' qualifications. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoKobach has lead in Kansas Senate race unless Pompeo enters: report The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE has accused Menendez of using ambassador nominations as a “political football,” according to NBC.

The Hill has reached out to the White House and the State Department for comment.