US President Donald Trump has settled on Heather Nauert, the acting under secretary for public diplomacy, to succeed Nikki Haley as the US permanent representative to the United Nations.
The announcement will be made official by the White House on Friday and comes two months after Ms Haley’s abrupt resignation. Unlike Ms Haley, who is former state governor and a rising star in the Republican Party, Ms Nauert, 48, is a relative political novice and an administration insider.
The nominee is a former Fox News journalist and commentator who is known for her loyalty and good rapport with both the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In that context, the UN position could be downgraded to a non-cabinet level post. National security adviser John Bolton has favoured downgrading the position to what it was during previous Republican administrations and Ms Nauert’s close relationship with her current boss Mr Pompeo would give the State Department more oversight and leverage on UN-related matters.
The Illinois native is known for her hardworking nature inside the State Department but also as someone who will require more coaching and training to operate on the global arena. During her tenure as State Department spokeswoman, Ms Nauert skillfully defended the administration’s views on Iran, Israel and Russia and managed to build a favourable atmosphere with the media, having been a former journalist herself. She travelled with Mr Pompeo to the Middle East on his latest trip to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and is seen to be a good soldier in championing the administration’s policy.
Ms Haley has repeatedly clashed with Mr Bolton, according to diplomatic sources, and that was one of the reasons that prompted her departure.
During the selection process, Mr Trump has been keen on nominating a woman to the post and has considered a list of candidates that include US ambassadors to Canada and France, Kelly Craft and Jamie McCourt, as well as former ambassador Nancy Brinker. Former White House official Dina Habib Powell withdrew her name early in the process.
Ms Nauert's nomination would need confirmation from the Senate and her thin diplomatic experience will likely be questioned.
If confirmed, Ms Nauert will be expected to take up her new post at the start of 2019. Her deputy Robert Paladino has been conducting more of the daily State Department briefings and is one of the names being floated to succeed her.