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Opinion Heather Nauert nomination sunk by nanny issues

U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice for ambassador to the United Nations, Heather Nauert, has withdrawn from consideration for the job for family reasons. (Video: Reuters)

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert withdrew herself from consideration to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Saturday, saying in a statement that “it is in the best interest of my family.” Behind the scenes, her nomination faced complications because Nauert hired a foreign-born nanny about 10 years ago who didn’t have the proper work visa and Nauert didn’t pay proper taxes on time, according to two officials involved in her nomination process.

President Trump announced his intent to nominate Nauert to be America’s top diplomat at the United Nations this past December, but he never officially sent the nomination over to the Senate for consideration. That’s because her security investigation was delayed while the administration tried to figure out how to deal with the revelation that Nauert had hired the nanny despite the nanny’s lack of a proper work visa, and the fact that Nauert didn’t pay taxes on the nanny at that time, the officials said. But Nauert paid the back taxes years later, they said. The officials requested anonymity to discuss internal and sensitive information. Nauert declined to comment.

One of the officials said that Nauert voluntarily disclosed the nanny issue to investigators as well as to senior officials at the beginning of her vetting process. The issue would likely have been part of the public record during her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, if she ever had one. On top of the already tepid response that Nauert’s expected nomination provoked from Senate Democrats, her confirmation process would have been grueling for her family, the officials said, so Nauert was honest when she said in her statement that she decided to withdraw with her family’s interests at heart.

The nanny issue wasn’t caught in her first security investigation, when she became State Department spokeswoman in 2017, the officials said. The investigation process for a Senate-confirmed position is more rigorous and a U.N. ambassador needs a higher level of clearance, they said.

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The mere fact that Nauert’s paperwork had never been produced for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was already causing frustration and suspicion on Capitol Hill. Just hours before Nauert’s announcement, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, told me in an interview that Nauert’s nomination was delayed due to a vetting problem.

“There clearly is a problem when you don’t send her paperwork over for a critical post,” he said. “This isn’t an ambassador to wherever, this is a global-stage role. And you don’t go around telling the world ‘this is going to be my nominee’ and then never send anything over.”

Menendez didn’t know at that time that Nauert was about to take herself out of consideration. But he warned that Democrats were going to thoroughly vet her themselves and that he was skeptical of her qualifications for this senior diplomatic role.

“I question in the first instance … that she has the expertise to be United States ambassador to the United Nations,” Menendez said. “Being a spokesperson is basically spinning what someone else tells you. Leading the world at the United Nations from a U.S. perspective is a totally different thing.”

In her Saturday statement, Nauert said, “I am grateful to President Trump and Secretary Pompeo for the trust they placed in me for considering me for the position of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. However, the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration. Serving in the administration for the past two years has been one of the highest honors of my life and I will always be grateful to the president, the secretary, and my colleagues at the State Department for their support.”