President Donald Trump, facing dimming approval ratings and a stalled legislative agenda, rolled out his greatest hits on Wednesday evening – ripping into CNN, assailing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and hailing his party’s string of special election wins.
Before a rapt audience of 300 supporters, major GOP donors and party leaders attending the first fundraiser of his 2020 reelection campaign at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., the commander in chief returned to his comfort zone.
Speaking for around 30 minutes at the closed-door event, according to two people present, the president continued to bash a favorite target – the media, and in particular CNN. Trump derided the network for errors and presented himself as a victim of their reporting, which he described as deeply unfair. At one point, the president turned his fire on one of the network’s liberal commentators, Van Jones.
With Republican Party benefactors in attendance, the president highlighted the special election victories – especially last week’s for a Georgia congressional seat. The president poked fun at the unsuccessful Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff for not residing in the suburban Atlanta district he was running for. Ossoff, the president joked, raised over $20 million yet couldn’t get an apartment in Atlanta.
Then there was Pelosi, who Republicans aggressively tied to Ossoff – and whose future as Democratic leader has been questioned in the wake of the Georgia race. Republicans, Trump joked, needed Pelosi to stay atop her caucus.
One organizer estimated that around $10 million was raised – a sum that will divided between Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. Some of those attending donated more than $30,000. A number of major GOP figures were in attendance, including the RNC’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, and finance chair Steve Wynn, both of whom the president praised.
After the event was over, a number of Trump allies were seen roaming the lobby of the hotel, including oil executive Harold Hamm and senior campaign aide Brad Parscale.
Despite a series of legislative setbacks, Trump highlighted what he’d so far accomplished, pointing to his deregulation efforts. He also discussed health care legislation, which is stalled in the Senate, and said it needed to get done.
The president also lavished praise on his besieged chief of staff Reince Priebus, a former RNC chairman who remains plugged into the national party’s operations. Priebus had become famous, the president told the crowd, and joked that no one could pronounce his name.
Trump described his chief of staff has invaluable – and noted that he’d been spending time putting out a lot of “fires.”
Outside of the hotel, about 60 protesters shouted “What do we want? Health care. When do we want it? Now!” in an area around the corner from the fundraiser. The shouts were still audible from the hotel. About half the crowd disbanded once Trump was inside.
Diamond Naga Siu contributed to this report.
The gang's getting back together at the FCC.
President Donald Trump's move to tap Federal Communications Commission General Counsel Brendan Carr for the commission's open GOP slot is another sign that the agency's big players under Trump will look a lot like they did under President Barack Obama.
Carr is a familiar face at the FCC, having worked as an aide to Chairman Ajit Pai when he was a commissioner during the Obama years. Trump recently nominated Jessica Rosenworcel, a veteran of the Obama FCC, to fill the agency's open Democratic seat. And the remaining two commissioners — Republican Mike O’Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn — are also Obama-era holdovers.
The gathering of old hands won't necessarily change the trajectory of the now-Republican FCC, which is chipping away at a slew of Obama-era regulations, including the net neutrality rules. But the returning veterans have in-the-weeds experience and won't have a learning curve as they tackle a range of wonky and controversial topics.
"They’re heading into a very difficult period," said Republican telecom industry consultant Justin Lilley. "Net neutrality is going to be very contentious and very high profile. They’re very serious about getting the best people in these agency jobs."
As the newest potential member of the club, Carr already knows the ins and outs of the agency. He’s the FCC's top lawyer and worked in Pai’s office for three years, advising the then-commissioner on wireless, public safety and international issues.
As general counsel, Carr has been on the front lines defending Pai’s policy shifts. Carr had to explain to Hill Democrats why the FCC abandoned its legal defense of some of the agency’s reforms to the prison phone industry. His legal team also asked a federal appeals court to drop a review of Obama-era changes to the Lifeline telecom subsidy program because the new Republican majority at the FCC wants to make revisions of its own.
Carr’s in-depth regulatory knowledge, plus his backing from Pai, is likely what set him apart from the other contenders for the GOP slot, sources have said. The agency will be under siege as Pai moves forward with his proposal to roll back the FCC’s net neutrality roles, and Carr is seen as a strong ally for the Republican chairman.
"Brendan has a distinguished record of public service, having worked at the agency for over five years, including most recently as the FCC’s General Counsel," Pai said in a statement released immediately after the White House announcement. "In particular, Brendan’s expertise on wireless policy and public safety will be a tremendous asset to the Commission."
Rosenworcel will also bring plenty of FCC and telecom policy experience when she rejoins the agency. She voted for and is a strong supporter of the 2015 net neutrality rules, which require internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to treat all web traffic equally. She's also known for her expertise on spectrum policy generally, and is a champion of unlicensed spectrum — which is used for Wi-Fi and other services.
Rosenworcel, a former Senate aide, coined the term "homework gap" to refer to a lack of internet access at home for schoolchildren. She backed a major reform to the FCC’s broadband subsidy program for schools and libraries.
Pai’s net neutrality proposal would weaken the agency’s authority over ISPs, and he’s also criticized changes the FCC's previous Democratic majority made to the school broadband funding program, E-rate.
Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune has said he would like the Senate to process the nomination for the third GOP FCC commissioner along with Rosenworcel and Pai, who requires a reconfirmation vote this year. Democrats have pressed for a formal renomination hearing for Pai, and the Commerce panel could hold a hearing for all three nominees at the same time.
The Senate GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort may have stumbled, but activists on the right and left hustled into action on Wednesday to try to shape the rewrite on one side — or kill the bill outright, on the other.
Liberals capped their third straight day of massive demonstrations against repeal by drawing a thousand-plus demonstrators to the Capitol, while gearing up to pressure moderate GOP lawmakers in their home states during next week’s recess.
Conservatives, perhaps even more elated than progressives by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s postponed health care vote, are focusing on prodding Republicans to push their bill further to the right.
The furious mobilization on both sides of the Obamacare battle suggests that Senate Republicans may not be able to pull off a repeat of the last-minute vote on a once-stalled repeal bill that the House GOP managed last month. The left in particular, after struggling to push health care back onto front pages, has no intentions of letting up in the wake of McConnell’s decision to push a vote to next month.
Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a women's advocacy group, said her fellow progressive activists are on the same page and “treating this like it’s Armageddon, which it is.”
“Until this bill is put away, we can’t stop organizing,” Chaudhary said in an interview, warning that often “deals get cut in back rooms” to corral undecided votes.
While the left ramps up the pressure on GOP senators who have spurned their leadership’s bill, the right is holding off on direct fire — at least for now.
Conservatives hope that GOP leaders will drift further toward the positions of two of their close allies, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who have been heavily involved in crafting the Senate bill over the last five months.
Along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cruz and Lee are pressing McConnell to make tweaks aimed at further rolling back Obamacare’s tax credits and core insurance regulations. Activists on the right are bolstering the three senators’ message, warning that anything less than full Obamacare repeal amounts to a broken promise by Senate Republicans.
“We’re disappointed lawmakers haven’t done more to improve health care, but we remain committed to working with them,” said Freedom Partners Vice President of Policy Nathan Nascimento. “We worked with the House to improve the AHCA, and we’ll continue to work with the Senate to improve its legislation.”
As Senate Republicans try to salvage their bill in time for a quick post-recess vote, three leading conservative activist groups have diverged somewhat on their message. FreedomWorks and Club for Growth slammed the bill, while Heritage Action took a markedly softer tone, calling the bill a “chance to stop the bleeding” even if it falls short of full repeal.
Right-leaning groups —some of whom are coordinating closely with conservatives like Paul and Lee — are working behind the scenes to align their messaging, both to lawmakers and the public, one conservative advocacy group source said. They’re looking to amplify a “repeal or bust” attitude during next week’s recess, reminding Republicans that many of them already voted to repeal the seven-year-old Affordable Care Act without any replacement during the Obama era.
“Mitch McConnell said ‘root and branch’,” said Jason Pye, FreedomWorks’ public policy and legislative affairs director, panning the bill. “This is just not a repeal of Obamacare. I wish people would stop saying that.”
As conservatives work to get on the same page, liberals who have occasionally veered off into calls for single-payer health care during this year’s repeal battles are relishing their moment of messaging unity.
Before the thousand-plus marchers gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday for what was originally billed as a human chain but became a march around the building, Capitol Police reported arresting 40 protesters in multiple GOP Senate offices.
Progressives also rolled out new campaigns aimed at spotlighting the GOP repeal bill’s Medicaid cuts and coverage losses in the home states of moderate Republican senators. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched a new TV ad focusing on Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), branding her as “squishy” for criticizing only the current version of the legislation.
CREDO Action, a liberal group that previously pressured moderate Democrats to distance themselves from GOP-led health care talks, is now targeting GOP swing votes. Political director Murshed Zaheed said the group is focusing on a call-in campaign targeting Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Capito.
"I don't think complacency is going to be an issue," Zaheed said in an interview, because "people remember exactly what happened" in the House earlier this year when Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yanked his repeal bill only to resuscitate it and win. "We are going to be ready for the Trojan horse and have our guard up."
At Wednesday afternoon’s march, where demonstrators shouted jubilantly that “health care is a human right," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) topped the speakers’ list. Also in the mix were liberal senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Brian Schatz of Hawaii. (Schatz tweeted from the crowd, writing: “My first march ever.”)
"Over the last week, Democrats have been stepping up to the plate, joining activists in their districts, in D.C., across the country, and pulling out all the stops," MoveOn.org Washington director Ben Wikler said in an interview. "You can see that it’s had the necessary effect."
On the right, groups are wary of upsetting McConnell, who lit into the pro-Trump group America First Policies for its planned $1 million campaign against vulnerable Nevada Sen. Dean Heller after he came out against the bill. America First Policies later abandoned plans to hit Heller over his opposition.
But that patience may last only for so long if Republican leaders appear to be making overtures to the conference’s more moderate wing. Among the GOP’s most ardent boosters, the repeal effort has already strayed far off course.
“These guys have conceded a ton,” Pye said of the party’s conservative wing. “They conceded a ton to get to yes in the House. I think the Senate’s going the same way.”
Diamond Naga Siu contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump’s lawyers approached Daniel Levin, a former chief of staff to special counsel Robert Mueller, to join the president’s personal legal team amid the growing probe into his campaign’s potential ties with Russia.
Levin, a Washington lawyer who worked for Mueller at the FBI, has spoken to members of Trump’s defense team on several occasions but has not officially signed on, according to people familiar with the talks. Whether he will sign on “remains up in the air,” one person said.
Levin declined to comment Wednesday. Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lead lawyer Marc Kasowitz, also declined to comment.
Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But with investigators gearing up for a wide-ranging probe that may include questions of whether the president tried to obstruct justice by firing former FBI director James Comey in May, his lawyers are looking for counsel familiar with Mueller and how he runs investigations.
Corallo, the spokesman, previously worked with Mueller in the federal government. And Levin has long been friends with Mueller, working as his chief of staff in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and later coordinating the 9/11 Commission. Levin also worked at WilmerHale, where Mueller worked, before moving to White and Case.
“He’s the first person in and the last person out, that’s the reason everyone claims he is the gold standard,” Levin said of Mueller to CNN last month.
The president has grown obsessed with the investigations, calling them a “witch hunt” and periodically attacking the investigators. He frequently calls his lawyers while reading news reports and watching TV.
Trump has already recruited John Dowd, a longtime Washington lawyer who has defended politicians, to join his longtime New York personal attorney Kasowitz and Jay Sekulow, a prominent conservative lawyer.
President Donald Trump painted a grim picture of the homeland Wednesday, saying his actions to crack down on illegal immigration in the United States were "liberating towns" from gangs such as MS-13.
"We're freeing up towns, actually we're liberating towns, if you believe we have to do that in the United States of America," Trump said, speaking in the Cabinet room alongside families who said their children were killed by people in the country illegally. "But we're doing it and we're doing it fast."
The remarks came with a call for Congress to pass the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which would pull federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials. The cities say their policies allow immigrant communities to trust police and report crimes without fear of deportation.
"We will cut federal grant money to cities that shield dangerous criminal aliens from being turned over to federal law enforcement," Trump said.
The president also called for Congress to pass Kate's Law, which augments criminal penalties for those who return to the United States illegally after deportation. The bill is named after Kate Steinle, who was killed in San Francisco by a gunman who had previously been deported after being convicted of a felony.
Trump's remarks were followed by the parents of deceased children sharing their stories, a frequent fixture of Trump campaign rallies in 2016.
An overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate sanctions bill targeting Russia and Iran hit a new snag Wednesday, as Democrats sought assurances that House Republicans will not water it down after what the GOP has billed as a simple fix.
Senior senators have negotiated with their counterparts across the Capitol since the sanctions bill, passed by the Senate on a 98-2 vote, ran into a constitutional objection in the House last week.
But when Democrats — aware that the White House is urging House Republicans to make the sanctions bill more friendly to President Donald Trump — asked the GOP to commit to no new, significant changes in the House, that commitment didn't arrive, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a leader in the bicameral sanctions talks, declared Democrats' response "self-defeating" and "actually accommodating Russia" by furthering the delay in the legislation.
"It is a ridiculous position to take that you’re not going to let our bill go to the House in an appropriate manner until you know exactly how the House is going to deal with a bill we passed," Corker told reporters Wednesday.
Before the partisan tensions bubbled over, a deal on a technical fix to the sanctions package appeared within reach as the latest proposal earned sign-off from Corker's Democratic counterpart on the committee, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin.
For Democrats who fought hard for language in the bill that hamstrings Trump's ability to warm relations with Vladimir Putin's government, however, the prospect of diluting the sanctions package in the House is hard to swallow.
"House Republicans have also not committed that this is the last change bill would undergo," the Democratic aide said. "We are happy to make changes to the bill to deal with the problem, provided it doesn’t weaken or fundamentally alter the core of the bill. We need assurances that that’s it, that bill is not going to be weakened or watered down in the House."
The crux of the sanctions delay has been a provision in the Senate-passed bill that allows Congress to block Trump from easing or ending sanctions against Russia. Changing sanctions policy would affect federal revenue, and the Constitution requires any bills that change revenue to start in the House — triggering a so-called "blue slip" delay that has stalled the Senate-initiated legislation from moving forward.
Democrats have raised repeated concerns that the White House plans to push House Republicans to dilute the congressional review provision to make it friendlier to the president. House Republicans have pushed back against the suggestion of any such political motivations behind their procedural holdup of the Senate bill.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) told Fox News on Wednesday that "now that the Senate has some time on its hands" with the postponement of a health care vote, "it should fix the constitutional problem in the bill."
“We need to send this message to Putin and to Russia that there will be consequences for their intervention in undermining democracies around the world," Royce added.
As recently as Tuesday afternoon, Cardin said he was inclined to sign off on the House's proposed change to the congressional review provision.
"I think I'm okay with it" based on a staff-level review of the House-drafted language, Cardin told reporters, warning that other Democrats may not have all agreed.
The proposed revisions to the sanctions bill should not change its effect "if interpreted properly," Cardin told reporters, but "we're not sure that's the holdup to passing it." Democrats suspect the Russia bill's delay may be "a little bit more Machiavellian" in nature, the Maryland Democrat added.
The Senate's bill imposes new sanctions against Moscow and codifies existing sanctions into law, while also adding new penalties against Tehran related to its ballistic missile program, human rights violations and support for terrorist groups.
One source described the changes under consideration for the sanctions bill as technical rather than substantive, adding that the House Rules Committee had also identified a minor issue that could be in line for a fix.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and panel member Lindsey Graham are asking the FBI to turn over some closely guarded secrets: its applications for warrants to spy on people suspected of helping Russia meddle in last year’s presidential election.
Grassley’s panel is currently investigating Russia’s election interference, including the circumstances behind the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
In a letter released Wednesday, Grassley (R-Iowa) and Graham (R-S.C.) asked the Justice Department and FBI to turn over all proposed and final applications for surveillance warrants submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, along with the court’s responses, related to the FBI’s Russia probe.
The surveillance court is in charge of approving requests by intelligence agencies to spy on people suspected of acting as agents of foreign powers.
Their letter cites a report in The Guardian that the FBI applied for warrants last summer to monitor four members of the Trump campaign but that the surveillance court turned down the application, asking the FBI to narrow its request. The Washington Post later reported that the FBI obtained approval to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
“We are writing to request information regarding FISA-related actions by the FBI and the Justice Department in the course of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including the investigations into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” Grassley and Graham wrote in their letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that “a big surprise” could be coming in the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, a tease that came hours after the president predicted that Senate Republicans are “going to get at least very close” to passing their stalled health care bill.
“And just to do a little official business, health care is working along very well. We could have a big surprise with a great health care package. So, now they're happy,” Trump said, gesturing to a group of reporters during a meet-and-greet with the visiting World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
“What do you mean by big surprise, sir?” one reporter shouted
“I said you're going to have a great, great surprise. It's going to be great,” Trump said without elaborating further.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump predicted that Senate Republicans are “going to get at least very close” to passing legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, adding that “I think we're going to get it over the line.”
Trump’s earlier comments, which came during a roundtable discussion on energy with state, local and tribal leaders at the White House, followed a meeting Tuesday afternoon with Republican senators just hours after GOP leadership postponed a vote on its health care measure until after the July 4 recess.
The vote’s postponement came after the legislation failed to gain traction among the Senate GOP rank and file. At least eight Republican senators have expressed opposition to the measure, and, with a 52-seat majority, the party can afford to lose just two GOP votes and still pass the bill.
“The meeting went really well. We're talking about a great, great form of health care,” Trump said in introductory remarks captured by the White House press pool. “We have a plan, that if we get it approved — it's very tough, every state is different, every senator is different. But I have to tell you, the Republican senators had a really impressive meeting yesterday at the White House. We had close to 50 of them. We have 52, we need almost all of them. That's never easy.”
“I think we're going to get at least very close, and I think we're going to get it over the line. There was a great, great feeling in that room yesterday,” he continued.
The bill, Trump said, would make health care cheaper not only for individuals but also for the country. He said Obamacare is “dying” and has been a “headache for everybody” and a “nightmare for many.” With the Senate’s legislation, the president said, “we get rid of so much … all of the bad parts of Obamacare are gone.”
By postponing the vote, Trump said, Republicans “have given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect.”
Asked by a reporter whether he was concerned about the Medicaid cuts in the legislation, Trump said only that “this will be great for everybody.”
President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron to visit the nation on Bastille Day next month, the White House said Wednesday.
“President Trump looks forward to reaffirming America’s strong ties of friendship with France, to celebrating this important day with the French people, and to commemorating the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I,” the statement said. “The two leaders will further build on the strong counter-terrorism cooperation and economic partnership between the two countries, and they will discuss many other issues of mutual concern.”
Trump spoke by phone with Macron on Tuesday. According to the White House, he congratulated the French president on “France’s successful parliamentary elections” during the call and complimented his French counterpart “for his leadership of the new political party that secured a majority in the French National Assembly and wished him luck in launching his legislative agenda.”
A French readout of the call said Macron “renewed his invitation” to the president and first lady Melania Trump “to attend the parade on July 14th,” marking 100 years since the entry of the United States into World War I.
An Islamic State-inspired Bastille Day attack last year in Nice, France, killed more than 80 people after a truck plowed through a crowd celebrating the French national holiday. Then-President François Hollande called it an act of “terrorism.”
In a pair of tweets last year, Trump called the attack “horrific” and offered his “prayers and condolences to the victims and families of the terrible tragedy.”
“When will we learn?” he added. “It is only getting worse.”
President Donald Trump said before he took office that he planned to choose New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, a campaign supporter and old friend, as his ambassador to Britain. But it took until this week for the White House to formally submit Johnson’s nomination to the Senate.
So far, Trump has nominated 20 ambassadors, with six confirmed, including the ambassador to the United Nations, according to the American Foreign Service Association.
By this point in their first terms, President Barack Obama had nominated 40 ambassadors with three confirmed, excluding the U.N. ambassador, while President George W. Bush had nominated 27, with three confirmed, according to statistics compiled by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. The Trump administration is taking 77 days on average to confirm ambassadors to countries, while Obama's nominees took 26 days and Bush’s 11, according to the Partnership for Public Service.
The slow pace of selecting key American representatives abroad is hurting the U.S. diplomatically, as foreign leaders try to suss out the administration’s worldview and their place within it, according to interviews with more than a dozen foreign policy experts, current and former ambassadors, and sources familiar with the hiring process.
“Countries get miffed when they do not have an ambassador because they believe they’re seen as not important and that Washington does not respect them,” said Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, an independent, nonprofit association of former senior U.S. ambassadors and high-level government officials.
Although career foreign service officers hold the majority of the 188 ambassadorships available, Trump has yet to fill dozens of posts, including critical ones in places like Afghanistan and France, with Senate-confirmed ambassadors. That has left chargés d’affaires — essentially acting ambassadors — overseeing those embassies.
The dearth of ambassadors, coupled with the skeletal leadership at the State Department, means that foreign governments frequently are at a loss in their efforts to decode the Trump team’s ideology and policy moves.
“Because so much of State is unstaffed, in some ways that’s making the ambassadors even more important as a point of contact,” said one serving U.S. ambassador, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “The ambassadors are running into this even at multilateral gatherings, where officials from countries where they are not posted come to them and say, ‘I don’t know who to talk to in Washington. Can you help?’”
Countries with confirmed appointees include China; Israel; the Republic of Congo; Senegal; and New Zealand. The Senate also confirmed Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This week, former Sen. Scott Brown announced via Twitter that he’d arrived in New Zealand as its ambassador and posted a photo of him and his wife outside the ambassador's residence in Wellington.
A State Department official said: “The department is working closely with the White House,” and noted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that “there are other candidates at various stages in the process. We refer you to the White House for any questions regarding the selection and vetting process.”
White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said that currently there are more than 55 potential ambassadors going through the internal vetting and clearance process, which the Trump administration asks potential nominees to do before it announces its intent to nominate. A number of these picks have complex disclosure or financial forms given their years in the private sector, Walters added, and that can contribute to the delay.
The slowdown in ambassador picks under Trump stems from two key problems, said people familiar with the process: The White House receives input from too many senior staffers and factions, and it lacks a deep bench of donors or finance types from the campaign.
The personnel process for selecting ambassadors as well as political appointees has been hampered for months by turf wars between the West Wing’s senior staff, Cabinet secretaries and a president who insists on signing off on every hire — sometimes, with a lack of agreement among the principals on the best person for a job. The White House, not the State Department, has been controlling the ambassador selection process.
Trump has in multiple cases announced that he intends to nominate someone for an ambassadorship as opposed to just nominating the individual. Sometimes word leaks out about a Trump pick long before he even announces his intent. Reports weeks ago indicated Trump had selected former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to be U.S. ambassador to Russia. But Huntsman has not yet been formally named.
Typically, roughly 30 percent of ambassadorships go to political appointees, who tend to be donors or key finance officials from the campaign. But Trump relied on a narrow circle of donors and advisers, many of whom have already joined his administration in other capacities — leaving a shorter queue of candidates for diplomatic posts.
“That was thin in this campaign,” said one Trump transition official. “That universe is much smaller under Trump than it would have been under Romney or Jeb Bush.”