Trump's UN pick faces Senate grilling

Trump's UN pick faces Senate grilling

President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s nominee to be the face of the U.S. at the United Nations will confront senators Wednesday eager to lay into the administration’s foreign policy, as well as her own past.

Kelly Craft already has more than a year of experience in the Trump administration as U.S. ambassador to Canada, but the new role would be decidedly more high profile, and she will need to win over critics skeptical she can fill former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyAmerican women can have it all State denies report ex-spokeswoman received Fox salary while in administration Trump rules out Haley joining 2020 ticket MORE’s shoes.


Craft, a top Republican donor and wife of a coal executive with ties to the Trump administration, is likely to face plenty of questions from Democrats about her family’s business interests and potential conflicts of interest.

Craft’s nomination also comes at a time when the Trump administration is facing a host of national security and foreign policy challenges. She’s certain to be grilled on issues including North Korean denuclearization and Iran.

Here are five things to watch as Craft faces her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday.

Does she have the experience?  

Craft is likely to field plenty of questions on her experience and qualifications for the role of U.N. ambassador.

Craft was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate to serve as U.S. ambassador to Canada in August 2017, roughly halfway into Trump’s first year in office.

While a less high-profile role, Craft has been credited with maintaining smooth relations with Canada even as Trump looked to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Craft, who is known for being a prominent Republican donor, was part of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. under President George W. Bush in 2007.

“I learned then that making progress at the U.N. requires constant attention to relationships, a knack for knowing the bottom line, and a belief in incremental, but determined, steps forward,” Craft will say in opening remarks Wednesday, excerpts of which were obtained by The Hill.

Her supporters, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGrassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (R-Ky.), have cheered her as a solid choice for the job, describing Craft as a strong advocate for American interests abroad.

Critics argue she lacks a depth of foreign policy experience required for such a high-profile diplomatic role.

“What is her ability to be the U.N. ambassador? This is the global stage, totally different than her assignment in Canada,” Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border Pompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors MORE (D-N.J.) told reporters Tuesday. “She’s going to have to convince me that she is.”

Haley came into the role with virtually no foreign policy experience but was able to quickly earn respect even from corners critical of the Trump administration and its policies. Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, resigned from the post in December.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business MORE (R-Idaho) said Tuesday that he was generally supportive of Craft and that she addressed questions he had during their one-on-one meeting, though he wouldn’t get into the subject matter of their conversations.

“She and I have had some good conversations about questions I had and I’m satisfied,” Risch said.

How will she handle Iran tensions?

Perhaps the most pressing foreign policy issue before the administration is the current faceoff with Iran.

The timing of Craft’s appearance gives senators the opportunity to grill someone over the administration’s Iran strategy.

The Pentagon announced Monday night it is deploying another 1,000 troops to the Middle East following oil tanker attacks in the Gulf region the United States has blamed on Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran says that on June 27, it will exceed the limit of the amount of uranium it is allowed to stockpile under the international nuclear deal.

Lawmakers are fearful the situation will escalate into full-blown war, whether intentionally or accidentally.

Of particular concern for the U.N. ambassador will be rallying the international community to support the U.S. policy toward Iran.

Administration officials have called the tanker attacks an “international situation” and have said their focus is on building an “international consensus.”

But many U.S. allies, particularly in Europe, have balked at the administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran, working instead to save the now-floundering nuclear deal.

Can she make progress on North Korea?

Trump’s efforts to broker a nuclear deal with North Korea have languished since the president ended a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnDemocrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Human rights: Trump's trump card against China and North Korea Trump and Pakistan's Khan are a lot alike — but can they master the art of any deals? MORE in February without an agreement.

Since then, North Korea has conducted several short-range missile tests that Trump administration officials have said violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Trump himself has dismissed the severity of the tests, saying last month the tests “disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me.”

But one of Haley’s major successes was considered her ability to negotiate and push through new North Korea sanctions in the face of opposition from veto-power wielding Russia and China.

As such, Craft will undoubtedly be asked about how she will approach North Korea issues during her ambassadorship.

How does she explain her position on climate change?

Democrats are likely to grill Craft on her views on climate change, after she said “there are scientists on both sides that are accurate” during a 2017 interview shortly after becoming ambassador to Canada.

“I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate,” Craft told Canada’s CBC television network when asked whether she believes in climate change.

“Well, I think that both sides have, you know, their own results from their studies, and I appreciate and I respect both sides of the science,” Craft continued.

A group of Democrats sent a letter to Craft last month raising questions about her views of the Paris climate accord and international climate policy. They also suggested that her family’s business ties to the coal industry raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest.

Craft’s husband, Joe Craft, is a billionaire executive at coal producer Alliance Resource Partners.

“We need assurances that, in connection with U.N. activities related to climate change, you will put our nation’s interests ahead of your personal financial interests,” Sens. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator FTC looks to update children's internet privacy rules MORE (D-Mass.), Jeffrey MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Defense: Esper sworn in as Pentagon chief | Confirmed in 90-8 vote | Takes helm as Trump juggles foreign policy challenges | Senators meet with woman accusing defense nominee of sexual assault Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress MORE (D-Ore.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats look to capitalize on turmoil inside NRA Overnight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Watchdog probing more ethics investigations into EPA's former air chief: report MORE (D-R.I.) wrote May 3.

The Democrats also asked Craft whether she “acknowledge[s] that climate change caused by humans is real” and to explain her remarks that there are “both sides” to the scientific debate surrounding climate change.

And they asked whether she agrees with President Trump that the U.S. should withdraw from the Paris agreement.

How will she work with Trump's distaste for multilateral organizations?

Trump has railed since his presidential campaign against multilateral organizations, arguing they take advantage of the United States.

Others in his administration, too, have a reputation for targeting international organizations, including national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonKudlow: 'The president doesn't make things up' Trump met with Nunes to discuss potential replacements for Dan Coats: report Five things to know about Turkey's rift with Trump MORE.

Since becoming president, Trump has withdrawn from or ended U.S. funding for some U.N. programs, including the U.N. Human Rights Council and an aid program for Palestinian refugees.

The moves have elicited criticisms that Trump is working to undermine the U.N.

In her opening statement, Craft is expected to call the U.N. a “vital institution.”

“Like the president I have had the honor to serve, I believe that the United Nations is a vital institution that is at its best when free nations jointly contribute to its missions around the world,” she will say, according to the excerpts.