Trump Taps Canada Ambassador as His New U.N. Envoy

If confirmed, Kelly Knight Craft will face the tough job of representing an administration that has spurned multilateralism.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks with with U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft to Air Force One prior to his departure from Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Canada on June 9, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with with U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft to Air Force One prior to his departure from Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Canada on June 9, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the U.S. ambassador to Canada, Kelly Knight Craft, is his candidate to be the next envoy to the United Nations, about a week after his first pick withdrew herself from consideration.

“Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our Nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level,” Trump tweeted Friday evening, in making the announcement.

Trump’s decision ends several days of speculation about who would replace Nikki Haley, Trump’s first U.N. ambassador. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, Trump’s first choice, abruptly bowed out of the running about a week ago.

If confirmed by the Senate, Craft will represent an administration that has derided multilateralism and pulled back U.S. engagement at the U.N., leaving a void that critics say China and Russia are working to fill. U.S. officials have told Foreign Policy that Trump is not expected to make the new U.N. ambassador a cabinet-level position, as it was designated under Haley, who emerged as the administration’s leading voice on foreign-policy issues during the tumultuous first two years of Trump’s presidency.

Craft and her husband, a coal magnate from Kentucky, donated roughly $265,000 to committees backing Trump’s bid for the presidency in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), also from Kentucky, advocated for her, possibly tipping the scales in her favor.

In separate statements released Friday evening, both McConnell and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded Craft as a strong candidate for the job, which will require Senate confirmation.

Craft has been ambassador to Ottawa since 2017. She played a key behind-the-scenes role in crafting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, according to several officials. Trump’s drive to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the so-called USMCA would succeed, sparked tensions and diplomatic spats between Washington and Ottawa.

Former President George W. Bush appointed Craft an alternate delegate to the U.N. General Assembly in 2007.

U.N. delegates voiced hope that she might help reverse America’s retreat from multilateralism.

“I look forward to working with Ambassador designate Kelly Craft, subject to her confirmation by the Senate, after the particularly close and trusting partnership that I had developed with Nikki Haley,” François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the United Nations,  wrote in a text message to FP. “I hope that Ms. Craft will continue, like Nikki Haley, to be a bridge between Washington and the U.N. at a time when we more than ever need an America that is engaged with the U.N. in world affairs and committed to our shared values, beginning with human rights.”

Before Trump decided on Craft, other names floated for the job included Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Berlin; Dina Powell, a former senior national security aide for Trump; and John James, a prominent Republican political figure in Michigan.

Trump’s first pick, Nauert, bowed out of the running about a week ago, citing the strains on her family. She disclosed to investigators that she had at one point employed a nanny who was legally in the United States but not authorized to work, which was a potential red flag for the White House, according to Bloomberg News.

“I am grateful to President Trump and Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo for the trust they placed in me for considering me for the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,” Nauert said in a statement the State Department released on Saturday. “However, the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.”

FP’s senior diplomatic reporter Colum Lynch contributed to this report.

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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