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Biden taps Eric Garcetti for India ambassador post

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in June. (Ashley Landis/AP)

President Biden plans to nominate Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as ambassador to India and Denise Bauer, a former ambassador to Belgium and prominent Biden donor, to serve as ambassador to France, the White House announced Friday.

Garcetti, who has been mayor since 2013, was a prominent surrogate for Biden during his presidential campaign, serving as a national co-chair of the campaign and as a co-chair of the vice-presidential vetting team. The mayor, who considered his own presidential run, was at first viewed as a contender for a Cabinet posting.

He has recently been embroiled in controversy in Los Angeles, which could present problems for Garcetti’s confirmation in the narrowly divided Senate. A former top aide to Garcetti, Rick Jacobs, has been accused of sexual harassment during his time in the office, and Garcetti’s chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, was suspended in June after mocking labor icon Dolores Huerta.

A Los Angeles police officer is suing the city, saying that Jacobs harassed him and that Garcetti did not stop the behavior. Jacobs has denied the allegations, and Garcetti has said he did not witness any inappropriate behavior.

“Mayor Garcetti has been clear that he takes any allegations of harassment very seriously and has made clear this type of misconduct is unacceptable in his office in any form. He has also said that he never witnessed this behavior nor was told about it prior to the litigation,” a White House spokesperson said Friday before reiterating Biden’s confidence in his pick.

In choosing Garcetti for an overseas post, Biden is giving the mayor a political path outside of California, where he would probably face tough odds in seeking higher office. As mayor, Garcetti worked to raise the minimum wage, focused on expanding transit lines and steered the city through the pandemic. But he has also been criticized for failing to address the homelessness crisis.

Bauer served as ambassador to Belgium in the Obama administration and later became the executive director of Women for Biden, a network of women that organized to help elect Biden.

Biden also announced his intent to nominate Bernadette Meehan, the current executive vice president of global programs for the Obama Foundation, to serve as ambassador to Chile. Meehan previously worked as a career Foreign Service officer, which included postings at the National Security Council and as a special assistant to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The president will also nominate Peter Haas, a career member of the Foreign Service, to serve as ambassador to Bangladesh.

The Biden administration is striving to nominate a diverse group of ambassadors, an effort that has contributed in part to the slow rollout of nominees. Biden has also vowed to nominate a lower percentage of political ambassadors than previous administrations. The latest crop of ambassadors follows slates that included Thomas R. Nides for Israel, Julie Smith for NATO, Ken Salazar for Mexico, Cindy McCain for the United Nations food and agriculture programs and Claire Cronin for Ireland.