The White House is adding two high-profile women, both confirmed ambassadors, to the list of candidates to succeed Nikki Haley at the United Nations, according to two senior administration officials: Jamie McCourt and Kelly Knight Craft.
White House aides have said the president is inclined to select a woman for the post, and — while they stressed it’s still early in the process — that they are looking to tap somebody already in the administration.
“It’s so hard to get a security clearance so there’s a bias to get someone who is already in the system,” said a senior administration official.
An official at the State Department who declined to be identified because the process is still ongoing echoed that sentiment.
“If you go picking somebody not in government, they would have to go through paperwork for background checks, financial vetting, and that can take awhile,” the official said. “The White House is definitely looking for somebody already working in government to make them more of a safe bet.”
McCourt, the American ambassador to France and Monaco, is a former corporate attorney and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers whose 2009 divorce from former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt became tabloid fodder. She served as a California co-chair for the Trump campaign, and the president nominated her to serve in her current position in August of 2017. She was confirmed in November.
“She has done a great job as ambassador, as has Kelly Craft,” said the same senior administration official. “They are sophisticated, smart, and willing to travel.”
Craft, the American ambassador to Canada, is the husband of billionaire coal baron and Republican mega donor Joe Craft. She is the first woman to serve as ambassador to Canada and served as an alternative delegate to the U.N. in the George W. Bush administration. She recently worked with the Trump administration to hammer out the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, which raised her stock internally. Her experience at the U.N. may make her a more serious contender for the position and she has, to date, been discussed more internally than has McCourt.
Trump’s national security team is embroiled in a debate over whether the U.N. ambassadorship should remain a cabinet-level position, a detail first reported by Axios.
Republican administrations typically do not accord the U.N. ambassador cabinet-level status, while Democratic administrations typically do. Trump bucked the trend when he took office by keeping the post cabinet level as it had been under the Obama administration.
The new names come after the early favorite, former deputy national security adviser and Goldman Sachs executive Dina Powell, removed her name from consideration.
Other candidates discussed internally include Ric Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, a confidant of National Security Adviser John Bolton, and former Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman. The president is also likely to consider acquaintances from the business world, according to a senior administration official.