Trump names former news anchor as new UN ambassador

The World
Heather Nauert and Mike Pompeo wear navy blue suits and speak with reporters inside a plane.

President Donald Trump will nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as US ambassador to the United Nations, two White House officials said on Thursday, tapping someone with no prior policy or political experience to deal with some of the world's thorniest issues.

The decision was expected to be announced on Friday morning, the officials said, requesting anonymity.

Nauert, whose nomination would require Senate confirmation, is a former Fox News Channel correspondent and anchor. She became the State Department's spokeswoman in April 2017 and was named earlier this year as the acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

If confirmed, Nauert, 48, would succeed Nikki Haley, who said in October she would be leaving the UN post at the end of the year.

Related: US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley resigns

A senior White House official said late on Thursday that the UN ambassador post would not remain part of the Cabinet, as it has been under Haley.

The State Department declined to comment and Nauert did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Downgrading the UN ambassador away from the cabinet is a worrying sign. Any UN appointment, any leadership appointment of a national representative to the UN is a signal of what that country thinks about multilateralism and its level of priority domestically," said Anne Marie Goetz, a professor of Global Affairs at New York University. "And by downgrading the post and appointing somebody who may not have the qualifications or experience that are relevant for the job that sends a signal of the significance of multilateralism to the administration. 

Nauert, who earlier this year had been considered a possible successor to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, gained experience on diplomacy by working at the State Department, but she lacks the political and policy credentials of Haley, a former South Carolina governor.

Having the direct support of the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could buttress her image, however, among global diplomats at the United Nations, who have bristled at Trump's "America First" foreign policy.

She will face a variety of challenges if confirmed for the job, including championing US efforts to contain Iran's influence in the Middle East and ensuring the global body maintains tough sanctions on North Korea as Washington tries to negotiate an end to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

"The trouble with this kind of an appointment is that in this particular case, in the Heather Nauert case, her experience internationally and in government is extremely thin," said Goetz, a former adviser on peace and security issues to the United Nations agency, UN Women. "And the role of the UN Security Council ambassador is not about communication and spin. It's about extremely canny, tough negotiations to resolve some seriously intractable crises around the world."

Trump has been critical of the United Nations, complaining about its cost to Washington and criticizing it for focusing on bureaucracy and process rather than results.

He pulled the United States out of the UN human rights body in September, citing bias toward Israel, and his administration has cut funding for the UN refugee agency and last year proposed US funding cuts for aid and diplomacy that could curb the work of the global body.

But Trump has also used the United Nations to try to advance his foreign policy agenda on Iran and North Korea.

Related: Putin says Russia will make banned missiles if US exits arms treaty

The administration has also worked through the United Nations to try to find a political solution to the wars in Syria and Yemen, two issues that will confront Nauert.

The president is weighing a number of other end-of-year staff changes, including replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly, two of Trump's advisers said on Thursday. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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