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Heather Nauert, State Dept. Spokesperson, May Be Next UN Ambassador


Heather Nauert, the spokesperson for the US State Department, talking with reporters airborne to Singapore, Aug. 3, 2018. Trump has said she is his top choice to succeed Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the UN.

President Trump has apparently offered Heather Nauert the United States ambassadorship to the United Nations, according to numerous media reports. She would succeed Nikki Haley, who announced her resignation in early October, saying she wanted to work in the private sector. (Update: Trump said on Dec. 7 that she was his choice for the UN  post.)

Nauert, 48, is the spokesperson for the US State Department, having been appointed by Trump in April 2017. As spokesperson, she worked for Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, until he was fired by Trump in March 2018. Mike Pompeo, her current boss, became secretary of state on April 26, 2018.

Nauert is a multimillionaire, according to her financial disclosure form filed with the US government, dated April 20, 2017. It shows her net worth is at least $4,707,074 and at most $11,655,000. The disclosure form, obtained by PassBlue, requires that investments be categorized by the range of their value rather than a precise value.

Her assets are almost entirely individual stocks and mutual funds and include the assets in her 401k retirement plan and in an investment vehicle called the Heather Norby Discretionary Trust. (Her husband’s name is Scott Norby.) She has no liabilities, according to the disclosure form, which was approved by the Office of Government Ethics after the disposal of $672,446 in mutual funds deemed by an ethics officer to be a potential conflict of interest.

These sums do not include any holdings of her spouse. Norby is an investment banker with Morgan Stanley in New York City.

Nauert, a native of Rockford, Ill., formerly worked as a New York correspondent for Fox News, and before that for ABC News, where, the State Department said, “she traveled extensively for breaking news stories in the United States and abroad.”

She has no previous foreign-affairs experience in diplomacy, but her confirmation is likely to succeed in the Senate, given that her role in the State Department has made her versed in US matters overseas and in Washington. She also has top government security clearance, technically easing the way for her to become ambassador.

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“I’d say — based on his comments during Nikki Haley’s tenure, Trump seems to believe the UN ambassador’s position is one that favors flash, glamour, and presentation — that helps explain what makes Heather Nauert, whose government experience has been as a spokesperson, an intuitive choice for him,” said Anjali Dayal, the Hillary Rodham Clinton research fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. “She’ll bring that experience, as well as her contacts within the career civil service at the State Department, to US-UN [US mission to the UN].”

The position is also substantive and political, Dayal added, requiring Nauert to “spend time building consensus behind the scenes for US positions that don’t necessarily make headlines — and here her inexperience may prove deeply challenging. Relying on the career staff at US-UN, as Haley often did, is one way to manage this.”

It is also rumored, however, that the ambassadorship may not be a cabinet-level appointment, which could be a detriment for Nauert.

“Whether you agreed or disagreed with her, Haley had real clout in the Trump administration as a cabinet member,” said Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at United Nations University. “If the president doesn’t offer Nauert a cabinet post, it will be a downgrade for USUN.”

As for Nauert working with John Bolton, the national security adviser, Gowan said, “John Bolton has really been ramping up his anti-multilateralist narrative recently, and Nauert will have to contend with his rhetoric.”

“I think the next two years are going to be pretty tough for the US at the UN, whoever is ambassador,” Gowan added. “There are likely to be more crises over Iran and DPRK, while the White House will probably want Nauert to score more political points at the UN in the run-in to 2020. She will face flak at home and abroad.”

Under Tillerson, Nauert was excluded from his trips abroad, but that didn’t deter her from traveling on her own officially, visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2017 to see the conditions of Rohingya Muslims, then to Israel after a stop in Syria was scrapped, according to The Associated Press.

Now, she travels with Pompeo regularly. During Pompeo’s trip to the UN in July 2018 to discuss North Korea with the Security Council, Nauert was overheard telling former colleagues at Fox News, who were waiting outside the Council meeting, that she hadn’t been home in weeks.

On a recent trip Pompeo made to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, regarding the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Nauert was criticized for posting a smiling photo of herself, with the caption in her Instagram account, “#SaudiArabia at The Royal Court.”

As a major part of her role at the State Department, she briefs a roomful of international and national media about twice a week on such sweeping complexities as brokering peace in North Korea to sanctioning Iran. Although she can be brusque and often deflects questions, her demeanor is far less combative than Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the spokesperson for Trump.

Nevertheless, Nauert is not shy about lambasting countries, toeing the party line unblinkingly. She adamantly supported the US financial withdrawal from the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, or Unrwa, regardless of the consequences for Palestinian children who rely on the agency for schooling.

Unlike Haley, Nauert appears to be comfortable promoting gender equality. On International Women’s Day this year, Nauert read a statement from Pompeo, saying, in part, “The United States renews our steadfast commitment to addressing inequalities between women and men at home and abroad, and reaffirm the importance of having — advancing the status of women and girls globally.”

Nauert has an undergraduate degree from Mount Vernon College in Washington and a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University. Her husband, Scott Norby, is a specialist in private equity and private-credit investing at Morgan Stanley, according to his Linkedin page.

The couple have two sons. Politico reported that the family lives in New York — apparently on Long Island, near the Russian government’s mansion in Glen Cove and its estate in Oyster Bay, which the US seized in 2016. Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, frequents the Glen Cove retreat on weekends, as did his predecessor, the late Vitaly Churkin.

Laura E. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting to this article.

This article was updated to include the financial disclosure form of Heather Nauert.


Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Irwin Arieff is a veteran writer and editor with extensive experience writing about international diplomacy and food, cooking and restaurants. Before leaving daily journalism in 2007, he was a Reuters correspondent for 23 years, serving in senior posts in Washington, Paris and New York as well as at the United Nations (where he covered five of the 10 years that Sergey Lavrov spent in New York as Russia’s senior UN ambassador). Arieff also wrote restaurant reviews for The Washington Post and Washington City Paper in the 1980s and 1990s with his wife, Deborah Baldwin.

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