Administration

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

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At least 14 major contributors to President Trump’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.

{mosads}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 Menendez (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 Pompeo 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.

Tags ambassador nominees Bob Menendez Donald Trump inaugural committee Mike Pompeo Senate State Department White House

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