Trump names donors, po­lit­i­cal al­lies to cushy am­bas­sador posts.

Of­fi­cial de­fends de­ci­sion as ‘pretty tra­di­tional’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Trump promised to shake up Wash­ing­ton, but he’s fol­low­ing at least one swampy tra­di­tion by nom­i­nat­ing wealthy po­lit­i­cal al­lies and cam­paign donors to cushy am­bas­sador posts.

While pres­i­dents typ­i­cally dole out about 30 per­cent of U.S. am­bas­sador­ships to po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees, Mr. Trump through Fri­day had awarded 14 of his first 19 am­bas­sador posts to po­lit­i­cal nom­i­nees rather than ca­reer for­eign ser­vice pro­fes­sion­als.

They in­clude San Diego hote­lier Doug Manch­ester, nom­i­nated for the very pleas­ant as­sign­ment of am­bas­sador to the Ba­hamas. Mr. Manch­ester was one of Mr. Trump’s early po­lit­i­cal back­ers; he and his wife, Geniya, each gave $454,800 to po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tees sup­port­ing Mr. Trump’s cam­paign.

Ge­orge E. Glass of Ore­gon, founder of Pa­cific Crest Se­cu­ri­ties, is Mr. Trump’s choice to be­come am­bas­sador to Por­tu­gal. He do­nated $33,400 to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee in July 2016 and gave $22,500 to Mr. Trump’s in­au­gu­ral com­mit­tee.

Kelly Knight Craft, wife of bil­lion­aire coal mag­nate Joe Craft and a ma­jor Repub­li­can Party donor, has been nom­i­nated by the pres­i­dent for am­bas­sador to Canada.

Mr. Trump also nom­i­nated Robert “Woody” Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets, to the cov­eted post of am­bas­sador to the Court of St. James in London. Mr. Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal em­pire, was a top fundraiser for Mr. Trump and for the pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Lewis Eisen­berg, fi­nance chair­man of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee who helped to over­see Mr. Trump’s gen­eral-elec­tion fundrais­ing, is re­port­edly the lead­ing choice for the am­bas­sador­ship to Italy.

White House deputy press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders de­fended the pres­i­dent’s heavy re­liance so far on diplo­mats with po­lit­i­cal ties to him.

“I think it’s pretty tra­di­tional that you have some­body who sup­ported you and your agenda to go out and be an am­bas­sador to speak on be­half of the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” she told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Mr. Trump’s early wave of po­lit­i­cal nom­i­nees for am­bas­sador­ships is to be ex­pected be­cause po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees from the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion are among the first to re­sign when a new pres­i­dent is in­au­gu­rated, said Ás­geir Sigfús­son, direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Amer­i­can For­eign Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion.

“Most pres­i­dents start out with po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees, as those are the am­bas­sador­ships that are open at the be­gin­ning of a new ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

Out of 188 am­bas­sadors’ posts world­wide, there are cur­rently 60 va­can­cies, about av­er­age for a new ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mr. Sigfús­son said.

Tak­ing into ac­count the ca­reer for­eign ser­vice am­bas­sadors who are holdovers from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mr. Sigfús­son said, “the ra­tio of ca­reer vs. po­lit­i­cal as it stands to­day is not out of the or­di­nary.”

But for Mr. Trump, who has vowed to “drain the swamp” in Wash­ing­ton, the plum as­sign­ments for cam­paign donors and sup­port­ers fol­low a fa­mil­iar pat­tern of his pre­de­ces­sors re­ward­ing po­lit­i­cal loyalty with pres­ti­gious jobs.

Just over a year into his sec­ond term, Pres­i­dent Obama had given am­bas­sador­ships to 23 so-called “bundlers” who had raised mil­lions for his cam­paigns. They in­cluded Matthew Winthrop Barzun, na­tional fi­nance chair­man of Mr. Obama’s 2012 cam­paign who raised at least $1.2 mil­lion, for am­bas­sador to the United King­dom; and Suzi LeVine, a for­mer Mi­crosoft ex­ec­u­tive who raised at least $800,000, as am­bas­sador to Switzer­land and Liecht­en­stein.

Nearly all of Mr. Obama’s bundler-am­bas­sadors had raised at least $500,000 for him.

By that stan­dard, Mr. Trump’s first-wave of am­bas­sador nom­i­nees are not all ma­jor fi­nan­cial back­ers but Trump loy­al­ists.

For ex­am­ple, Cal­lista Gin­grich, wife of Trump ally and for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, has been tapped by the pres­i­dent for the very sought-af­ter po­si­tion as am­bas­sador to the Holy See in Rome.

For­mer Mas­sachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a Repub­li­can, has been cho­sen by Mr. Trump to serve as am­bas­sador to New Zealand, an­other choice as­sign­ment.

For­mer Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Repub­li­can, is the new U.S. am­bas­sador to China, a choice that Mr. Trump ex­plained dur­ing a visit to Iowa last week.

“When I was cam­paign­ing in Iowa, Terry would al­ways say, ‘Do me fa­vor — don’t say any­thing bad about China,’ ” Mr. Trump re­called. “He said, ‘We have a great re­la­tion­ship with China, and I like it, and I re­ally like Pres­i­dent Xi,’ who he knew for 30-some-odd years.

“And it re­ally dawned on me when I was think­ing about am­bas­sadors. I said, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great if I picked a man that re­ally likes China and, by the way, China re­ally likes him?’ So that was an easy one.”

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping first met Mr. Branstad in 1985, when he vis­ited Iowa as a young agri­cul­ture of­fi­cer dur­ing Mr. Branstad’s first term as gover­nor. They have kept in touch ever since, with Mr. Branstad vis­it­ing Bei­jing in 2013 and host­ing a din­ner at the Iowa Capi­tol for Mr. Xi in 2012.

Mr. Trump’s story il­lus­trates a qual­ity that is im­por­tant for an ef­fec­tive diplo­mat — proof that you have the ear of the pres­i­dent, said Kent Hughes, a spe­cial­ist on state­craft and for­eign pol­icy at the Wilson Cen­ter.

“The key posts of­ten go to non­ca­r­eer peo­ple even though they may be highly ex­pe­ri­enced,” Mr. Hughes said.

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