WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he intends to nominate Kelly Craft to be his ambassador to the United Nations, filling a marquee diplomatic post that’s been vacant since the end of 2018.
Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, is Trump’s second nominee to replace Nikki Haley, who served in the role during the first two years of the administration and often showed flashes of independence from the president on issues including Russia and allegations of sexual harassment.
The president’s first choice, former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew from consideration in mid-February after the White House learned that she previously employed an immigrant nanny who entered the country legally but was not authorized to work.
Trump interviewed Craft in the Oval Office on Friday.
A longtime donor to Republicans, Craft was an active supporter of President George W. Bush, who in 2007 appointed her a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She and her husband, billionaire coal mining magnate Joe Craft, backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 Republican primaries before ultimately supporting Trump and giving $750,000 to Future 45, a super-PAC led by Joe Ricketts and Sheldon Adelson.
Craft, 56, may have less clout than Haley and other recent predecessors, since Trump has decided to strip the job of its Cabinet-level status. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton are expected to have more sway over U.S. policy at the U.N. and both have a history of questioning the organization’s value.
But Craft and her husband are close friends with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his wife, Elaine Chao, the Transportation secretary, which should smooth her confirmation to the post. And unlike Nauert, she has already withstood the scrutiny of confirmation hearings for her current post.
“Kelly Craft is a strong advocate for American interests and will be a powerful representative of our great nation at the U.N.,” McConnell said in a statement.
McConnell spoke to Trump on Wednesday about Craft. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump also supported Craft as the nominee.
Craft is also friends with Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, who were her guests at a Kentucky Derby event in 2016.
Trump chose Craft after also considering Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner Dina Powell; his ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell; and John James, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Michigan, according to people familiar with the matter. Top White House aides had also discussed nominating Ivanka Trump if no frontrunner emerged.
Craft, a Kentucky native, has been the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa since October 2017 during a turbulent period in U.S.-Canada relations. She was the first woman to fill the post, and helped re-negotiate the NAFTA trade accord.
She had previously served in leadership roles in organizations including the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, the Salvation Army of Lexington and the Kentucky Arts Council.