Biden expected to tap Rahm Emanuel for Japan ambassador

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President Biden is expected to nominate former Chicago mayor and longtime Democratic insider Rahm Emanuel as U.S. ambassador to Japan, a source familiar with the matter confirmed.

The Financial Times and The Guardian both reported that the Biden administration had finalized its pick of Emanuel to serve as its envoy in Japan, an increasingly important ally as the U.S. seeks to address Chinese influence.

Both news outlets reported that Biden would announce Emanuel’s nomination later this month as part of a larger rollout of ambassador picks.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment, and the White House has remained mum about potential ambassadorships as reports have trickled out.

The Hill first reported in February that Emanuel was favored to be Biden’s pick for ambassador to Japan. He was briefly considered for the same post in China, but that role is likely to go to a more experienced diplomatic hand.

As a member of Congress, Emanuel led Democrats to the House majority in 2006, working closely with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to return the party to power for the first time in roughly a decade.

The wins preceded former President Obama’s victory in 2008 and even bigger gains in the House. Emanuel, once thought to be a future Speaker himself, ended up working with Obama at the White House before jumping into the Chicago mayor’s race and winning after longtime Mayor Richard Daley (D) announced he would not run again.

But his time as Chicago mayor, and his handling of the 2014 police shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald in particular, has made him toxic among progressive Democrats, some of whom already were at odds with him over other past positions. He further alienated progressives early in the Biden administration with his calls for a more moderate agenda and compromise with Republicans.

Emanuel has maintained strong ties with members of Biden’s orbit, however. He was previously floated as potential Transportation secretary during the transition, and offered outside guidance in the early weeks of the Biden administration.

Japan has solidified itself as a critical ally to the United States on issues of trade and defense as the two countries collaborate to confront an increasingly aggressive China, as well as an unpredictable North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was the first foreign leader to meet with Biden at the White House when he traveled to Washington, D.C., last month. 

Tags Barack Obama Chicago mayor Japan Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi Rahm Emanuel U.S. ambassador to Japan

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