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Trump nominates key donor Kelly Knight Craft as U.S. ambassador to Canada

Kelly Knight Craft speaks at the inauguration of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, right of the podium in pale blue tie, December, 2015.

Teresa Revlett/Kentucky Press Association

U.S. President Donald Trump has named a top donor and fundraiser as ambassador to Canada.

Mr. Trump picked Kelly Knight Craft for the post in February and had the State Department vet her, but did not formally nominate her until Wednesday. Ms. Craft must now be confirmed by the Senate.

The Lexington, Ky.-based Ms. Craft runs a business-consulting firm, but she is best known in Republican circles as a prodigious fundraiser and generous contributor.

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She and her husband, billionaire Joe Craft, president of coal company Alliance Resource Partners, together gave $1.3-million (U.S.) to Republican candidates and SuperPACs last year, including a $265,400 contribution from Ms. Craft to Trump Victory.

In a 2007 interview with her hometown newspaper, the Daily Times in Glasgow, Ky., Ms. Craft said she first got into fundraising helping non-profit organizations. Starting with then-president George W. Bush's 2004 re-election bid, Ms. Craft became involved in political organizing and raising money for candidates.

Mr. Bush appointed her to the United States' United Nations delegation in 2007.

Ms. Craft's political donations over the past 13 years have been wide-ranging, including both federal and state campaigns, and such heavy-hitters as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Marco Rubio. Mr. Craft, for his part, has shown a particular fondness for American Crossroads, the SuperPAC founded by Bush strategist Karl Rove. Mr. Craft gave the organization $1.25-million in 2012; his company contributed a further $2-million.

Ms. Craft and her husband have also made significant donations to her alma mater, the University of Kentucky. Ms. Craft sits on its board of trustees.

Her appointment comes at a pivotal time in U.S.-Canada relations. The two countries are gearing up to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement, the pact that regulates the vast majority of Ottawa's foreign trade. Mr. Trump has fired rhetorical shots at Canada in the run-up to the talks, accusing Canadians of "taking advantage" of the United States under the deal.

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Ms. Craft's coal connection could be awkward, however. The Trudeau government has made phasing out coal-fired electricity a cornerstone of its plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions, even as Mr. Trump is boosting the hydrocarbon and decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

When Ms. Craft will be installed in Ottawa is unclear. She must first have her nomination reviewed by a Senate committee before coming before a vote in the full chamber. Procedural battles in the chamber have held up appointments in the past.

The United States has been without an ambassador to Canada since January, when Mr. Trump asked all of former president Barack Obama's envoys, including then-ambassador Bruce Heyman, to step down before Mr. Trump took office.

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