Another Trump Loyalist Joins the National Security Council

Elizabeth Erin Walsh will oversee America’s troubled relations with the United Nations.

By Colum Lynch, a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy.
A blanket of snow covers the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, January 12, 2011. (Photo credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
A blanket of snow covers the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, January 12, 2011. (Photo credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Erin Walsh, a former top U.S. Commerce Department official, will oversee the National Security Council’s office of multilateral affairs, placing a stalwart White House loyalist in a critical post that oversees U.S. relations with the United Nations and other world bodies.

Walsh, who was reportedly escorted by security from her job at Commerce in May, will report to National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has a long history of hostility toward the U.N. and multilateral action.

She will replace retired Rear Adm. Garry Hall, who stepped down this month as the NSC’s senior director for international organizations and alliances. The position does not require confirmation by the Senate.

A spokesperson for the NSC declined to comment or to make Walsh available to Foreign Policy. But two sources familiar with the transition said that Walsh is scheduled to begin her new job on Monday.

Walsh, who has previously lived in China, is expected to focus much of her attention on U.S.-China trade matters and China’s role at the United Nations and other international organizations, sources said. Her hawkish views on China align her closely with those of Bolton.

Hall is only the latest of a series of senior Trump officials—including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly; Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Nick Ayers, a senior advisor to Vice President Mike Pence—set to step down after a bruising midterm election last month that saw the Republicans lose control of the House while gaining some ground in the Senate.

The move comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been joining Bolton in voicing a more hard-line approach to the U.N. and other international organizations.

The international system, Pompeo said in a Dec. 4 speech to European dignitaries and academics at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, has “failed us in some places, and sometimes it failed you.”

“Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” he said. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.”

Pompeo was particularly dismissive of the United Nations, even as he has leaned on the world organization to mediate peace talks in Yemen and contain North Korea through a set of biting U.N. sanctions.

Of the organization, he asked, “Does it continue to serve its mission faithfully?”

Walsh has had wide experience in U.S. government, business, and international organizations, having served as chief of protocol at the U.S. mission to the U.N. at the end of the Cold War before heading off to the Balkans to head emergency operations for the U.N. Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, in Tuzla, Bosnia, during that country’s civil war. Walsh returned to State Department in 2005, serving as a senior advisor in the department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. She subsequently went to work for Goldman Sachs, heading up its philanthropic activities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Walsh has supported Trump since the presidential campaign. She served a member of the administration’s State Department landing team before taking a job as a special advisor for the president.

Trump later picked Walsh in May 2017 to serve as assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director-general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

But BuzzFeed News reported in May that she had been forced out of the job, though the White House has continued to promote her for positions in the administration. In September, Trump nominated Walsh to serve as a U.S. representative to the U.N. General Assembly.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch