WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said Friday he’ll nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations.
“Heather Nauert will be nominated,” Trump said Friday before departing the White House on Marine One for an event in Kansas City. “She’s very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she’s going to be respected by all.”
Nauert is to replace Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who announced in October that she would step down as ambassador at the end of this year.
Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon welcomed the announcement and paid tribute to Haley who became a darling of the Trump administration and the pro-Israel community for her vociferous defense of the Jewish state at the UN, a body often seen as hostile to Israel.
“Nauert has stood behind Israel in her previous positions and I have no doubt that the cooperation between our countries will continue to strengthen during her term,” Danon said.
“During the last two years we succeeded, through close cooperation in changing the hostile atmosphere in the UN and making unprecedented achievements,” he said.
Nauert is a former Fox News Channel reporter who had little foreign policy experience before becoming State Department spokeswoman. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be a leading administration voice on Trump’s foreign policy.
Nauert is also seen as close to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.
Like Haley, a former South Carolina governor, Nauert would come to the job with little experience in diplomacy.
The announcement comes hours after a resolution championed by Haley condemning the Hamas terror group failed to pass in the General Assembly. The measure won a large majority, but not enough to secure the two-thirds needed for it to pass.
Israeli leaders nonetheless thanked her and feted the results as proof of wide support for Israel’s position.
Haley rattled the United Nations when she arrived in January 2017 vowing that the United States will be “taking names” of countries that oppose Trump’s foreign policy, particularly regarding Israel.
Ahead of the vote, the US ambassador sent a letter to all UN missions to make clear that “the United States takes the outcome of this vote very seriously.”
It was not immediately clear if Nauert would be able to defend Israel in the same powerful way as Haley did.
Following the vote, Nauert retweeted a comment by US special envoy Jason Greenblatt condemning the world body’s inability to pass the measure, but did not publicly comment herself.
Absolutely shameful!! @UN failed to condemn #Hamas even after years of attacks via suicide bombings, kidnappings, missiles, & more against Israelis. The applause after the vote says it all. #Hamas hurts #Israelis, #Palestinians & #peace. When will the #UN speak the truth???
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) December 6, 2018
Other candidates considered for the job, according to Bloomberg, were former White House adviser Dina Powell, ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft and ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell.
Plucked from Fox by the White House to serve as State Department spokeswoman, Nauert catapulted into the upper echelons of the agency’s hierarchy when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired in March and replaced with Mike Pompeo. Nauert was then appointed acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and was for a time the highest-ranking woman and fourth highest-ranking official in the building.
Nauert, who did not have a good relationship with Tillerson and had considered leaving the department, told associates at the time she was taken aback by the promotion offer and recommended a colleague for the job. But when White House officials told her they wanted her, she accepted.
That role gave her responsibilities far beyond the news conferences she held in the State Department briefing room. She oversaw public diplomacy in Washington and all of the roughly 275 overseas US embassies, consulates and other posts. She was in charge of the Global Engagement Center that fights extremist messaging from the Islamic State group and others, and she has a seat on the US Agency for Global Media that oversees government broadcast networks such as Voice of America.
Just 18 months ago, she wasn’t even in government.
Nauert was a breaking news anchor on Trump’s favorite television show, “Fox & Friends,” when she was tapped to be the face and voice of the administration’s foreign policy. With a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she had moved to Fox from ABC News, where she was a general assignment reporter. She hadn’t specialized in foreign policy or international relations.
Shut out from the top by Tillerson and his inner circle, Nauert developed relationships with career diplomats. Barred from traveling with Tillerson, she embarked on her own overseas trips, visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar last year to see the plight of Rohingya Muslims, and then Israel after a planned stop in Syria was scrapped. All the while, she stayed in the good graces of the White House, even as Tillerson was increasingly on the outs.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Nauert in March as “a team player” and “a strong asset for the administration.”