US President Donald Trump is to nominate Richard Grenell to be his ambassador to NATO, according to a White House official, a selection that would make the longtime loyalist and former US spokesman at the UN the highest-ranking openly gay person to serve in the administration.
Reached by telephone on Wednesday, Grenell, 50, declined to comment, while the White House official asked not to be identified because the position has not been formally announced.
A spokesman under then-UN ambassador John Bolton and three other Republican-administration ambassadors from 2001 through 2008, Grenell has been a Fox News contributor for four years and a Trump supporter since the start of the campaign.
The founder of Capitol Media Partners, he frequently tangles with journalists on his Twitter feed, accusing reporters of being unfair to Trump and Republicans. His name had circulated as a candidate for Trump’s ambassador to the UN, though the job ultimately went to former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.
If he wins Senate confirmation, Grenell will take a pivotal position in the Trump administration.
The president spurred widespread anxiety in NATO when he called the alliance “obsolete” and suggested during the campaign the US might not honor its defense commitments if other members do not pay their share.
In 2014, Grenell said on Fox that Congress should push for Ukraine to join NATO, a move that would infuriate Russia. He later praised Trump for threatening to walk away from NATO, calling it a smart negotiating tactic.
“I think this is about NATO reform, I don’t think this is about getting rid of a NATO alliance,” Grenell said on Fox last year. “I think this is businessman Donald Trump showing that he knows how to reform.”
In other developments, Trump is to nominate Washington lawyer Noel Francisco to be solicitor general, the government’s top advocate before the US Supreme Court, the White House said on Tuesday.
Francisco, who has been serving in an acting capacity in the job, is a lawyer with strong conservative credentials who previously worked at the Jones Day law firm.
Trump’s White House Counsel Don McGahn is one of several other Jones Day lawyers who have joined the administration.
Francisco has argued three high-profile cases at the Supreme Court, including a business-led challenge to presidential appointment powers, resulting in a 2014 ruling that limited the ability of the White House to fill positions without Senate approval.
Francisco served as a White House lawyer from 2001 to 2003 and spent another two years in the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2003 to 2005 during former US president George Bush’s administration.
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