U.S. President Donald Trump announced Friday that he has selected Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, as his nominee to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Mr. Trump said in a pair of tweets that Ms. Craft “has done an outstanding job representing our Nation” and he has “no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level.”
Two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters said that Mr. Trump had been advised that Ms. Craft’s confirmation would be the smoothest of the three candidates he had been considering to fill the job held most recently by Nikki Haley.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had backed Ms. Craft for the post, and she also has the support of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, the people said. Mr. Trump’s first pick to replace Ms. Haley, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew herself from consideration over the weekend.
Ms. Craft, a Kentucky native, was a member of the U.S. delegation to the UN General Assembly under president George W. Bush’s administration. She is also friends with Mr. McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and thanked Ms. Chao for her “long-time friendship and support” at her swearing-in as ambassador.
As U.S. ambassador to Canada, she played a role in facilitating the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), an overhaul of the North American free-trade agreement.
Mr. Trump had also considered U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and former U.S. Senate candidate John James of Michigan for the post.
Ms. Nauert’s withdrawal from consideration came amid a push within the administration to fill the position, given a pressing array of foreign-policy concerns in which the UN, particularly the UN Security Council, is likely to play a significant role. From Afghanistan to Venezuela, the administration has pressing concerns that involve the world body, and officials said there had been impatience with the delays on Ms. Nauert’s formal nomination.
Mr. Trump said on Dec. 7 that he would pick the former Fox News anchor and State Department spokeswoman for the UN job, but her nomination was never formalized. Notwithstanding other concerns that may have arisen during her confirmation, Ms. Nauert’s nomination had languished in part because of the 35-day government shutdown that began on Dec. 22 and interrupted key parts of the vetting process. Ms. Nauert cited family considerations in withdrawing from the post.
With Ms. Nauert out of the running, officials said Mr. Pompeo had been keen on Ms. Craft to fill the position. Although Mr. Pompeo would like to see the job filled, the vacancy has created an opportunity for him and others to take on a more active role in UN diplomacy. On Thursday, for example, Mr. Pompeo was in New York to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Mr. Trump has demoted the UN position to subcabinet rank, in a move backed by both Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo, according to three other officials. Mr. Grenell had suggested he wasn’t interested in a non-cabinet role. The officials were not authorized to discuss internal personnel deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ms. Haley had been a member of the cabinet and had clashed repeatedly with former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and others during the administration’s first 14 months. Mr. Bolton was not a cabinet member when he served as UN ambassador in president George W. Bush’s administration, and neither he nor Mr. Pompeo is eager to see a potential challenge to their foreign-policy leadership in White House situation room meetings, according to the officials.
Nelson Wiseman, a political-science professor at the University of Toronto, said Ms. Craft was appointed ambassador to Canada because of her financial contributions to the Trump campaign, but said that’s not unusual as past ambassadors have also contributed to presidents who have appointed them.
“I think Ottawa has regarded Craft as a lightweight, partly because of her background and partly because the sense is that Trump, unlike his predecessors, doesn’t listen to his ambassadors or care what they think,” Prof. Wiseman said.
Ms. Craft is married to billionaire coal-mining executive Joe Craft, and they are major Republican donors.