Trump cries obstruction, but has nominated few ambassadors

Senate Foreign Relations ranking member says he needs to send more nominees.

June 05, 2017, 1:55 PM

— -- President Trump is blasting Congressional Democrats for obstructing his nominations, but his administration has not nominated candidates for the vast majority of positions that require Senate approval.

That paltry number of picks is especially true for ambassadorships, despite the president’s tweet.

.@foxandfriends Dems are taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors. They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS! Want approvals.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017

In fact, the administration has only nominated 10 ambassador-level positions, including the cabinet-level position of ambassador to the United Nations, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. There are 188 posts in total and 61 of those remain vacant with no nominees.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blasted the president for his tweet.

"The President should get off Twitter and lead his team in sending more ambassadors and other crucial nominees to the Senate," said Cardin’s spokesperson Sean Bartlett. "We’re ready to do our job, but he needs to do his first."

Once the White House nominates a candidate, it must send the official paperwork to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The committee processes the paperwork, holds a hearing with the nominee and then votes on whether to send the nominee to the full Senate for a vote.

Trump has three ambassadors approved by the full Senate and in position. In addition to Haley, Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman is serving as ambassador to Israel and former Iowa governor Terry Branstad will serve as ambassador to China.

There are five Trump picks working their way through the confirmation process now, but delays so far are only procedural. Two of his publicly announced picks, however, have not sent complete paperwork to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The file is incomplete for Callista Gingrich, Newt Gingrich’s wife, who Trump picked for ambassador to the Vatican. Trump’s former deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, slated for the post in Singapore, has not yet been formally nominated.

Scott Brown, the former Republican senator from Massachusetts and an early Trump endorser, has been cleared through committee and is awaiting confirmation by the full Senate to be ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.

Trump's four other picks are in the committee process. Businessman Bill Hagerty, Trump's pick for ambassador to Japan, who founded a private equity firm and previously worked as a consultant in Japan and for the George W. Bush administration, is awaiting a vote by the committee. The three others are waiting for hearings in front of the committee: San Diego-based hotelier and major Trump donor Doug Manchester, to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas; career foreign service officer Michael Raynor, to serve as ambassador to Ethiopia; and retired U.S. Army Colonel and political-military commentator Jay Patrick Murray, to serve as Alternative Representative for the U.S. for Political Affairs at the U.N.

Under Trump, the Senate has also confirmed two ambassadors who were originally nominated by President Obama and re-nominated by Trump: Tulinabo Mushingi as ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau and Todd Philip Haskell as ambassador to Republic of the Congo.

The administration also nominated an administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Though this position is not an ambassadorship, it is a Senate-approved position.

While there has been no official announcement, Trump himself has also thrown some names around. At a pre-Inauguration Day dinner, Trump referred to New York Jets owner Woody Johnson as "ambassador," alluding to a post in the U.K. Previously, ABC News reported that former Republican presidential candidate and Utah governor Jon Huntsman would serve as the ambassador to Russia and there were other reports that Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would take the post in France. But without the formal nomination from Trump's White House, these candidates cannot proceed.

The 67 "vacant" positions are not empty, however. Where there is no ambassador, a chargé d’affaires fills the role and consular services are still running. And in the majority of the 188 posts, ambassadors nominated by previous administrations are still serving.

Still, many of those positions are critical posts at a time of global upheaval and great challenges to American foreign policy. Currently, there is no ambassador to key posts like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Germany and South Korea.

Within his first 100 days, Obama’s administration had nominated 16 ambassadors, according to the American Foreign Service Association, nearly double Trump’s.

These are the nominees so far:


  • Nikki Haley –- United Nations
  • David Friedman –- Israel
  • Terry Branstad –- China


  • Scott Brown –- New Zealand and Samoa


  • Bill Hagerty –- Japan


  • Jay Patrick Murray – Alternative Representative for the U.S. for Political Affairs at the U.N.
  • Doug Manchester –- Bahamas
  • Michael Raynor –- Ethiopia


  • Callista Gingrich –- Holy See
  • K.T. McFarland –- Singapore
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