Trump's UN pick faces Senate grilling

Trump's UN pick faces Senate grilling

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report 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) HaleyCoronavirus sets off industry scramble for aid from Washington Why Klobuchar should be Biden's vice presidential pick Overnight Defense: 'Tens of thousands' of National Guard troops could be activated for coronavirus response | Hospital ships could take week to deploy | Trump says military to help Americans stuck in Peru 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 McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill 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) MenendezHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website Democratic senators press Google over privacy of coronavirus screening site Menendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees 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 RischTensions boil over on Senate floor amid coronavirus debate  Overnight Defense: Pentagon confirms Iran behind recent rocket attack | Esper says 'all options on the table' | Military restricts service member travel over coronavirus Graham warns of 'aggressive' response to Iran-backed rocket attack that killed US troops 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 UnTired of worrying about the pandemic? There's always Pyongyang Overnight Defense: Pentagon orders bases to stop reporting coronavirus numbers | Hospital ship arrives in NY | Marines pause sending new recruits to boot camp | Defense bill work delayed North Korea: 'Reckless remarks' by Pompeo show US doesn't want nuclear talks 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 MarkeyOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal MORE (D-Mass.), Jeffrey MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-Ore.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Overnight Energy: Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights | Court sides with tribes in Dakota Access Pipeline case | Trump officials walk away from ethanol court fight Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights 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 BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office 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.