Heather Nauert, who was nominated by President Trump in early December to succeed Nikki Haley as the United States ambassador to the United Nations, has withdrawn from consideration as of Feb. 16, 2018. Nauert was the chief spokesperson for the State Department from mid-2017 until her nomination in early December. Bloomberg News reported the withdrawal on Saturday night on Twitter.
The State Department’s announcement on the withdrawal cited how “grueling” the last two months — since Trump announced Nauert’s nomination on Dec. 7 — have been on her family, who reside on Long Island. Trump will announce the new nominee “soon,” the State Department said.
The White House had yet to send the nomination paperwork to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Nauert’s confirmation hearing.
In the State Department statement, Nauert says: “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.”
Pompeo’s remarks in the statement suggest that Nauert was asked to withdraw, saying: “Heather Nauert has performed her duties as a senior member of my team with unequalled excellence. Her personal decision today to withdraw her name from consideration to become the nominee for United States Ambassador to the United Nations is a decision for which I have great respect. I wish Heather nothing but the best in all of her future endeavors and know that she will continue to be a great representative of this nation in whatever role she finds herself.”
One factor in Nauert’s withdrawal, according to Bloomberg News, was that Nauert and her husband, Scott Norby, an investment banker with Morgan Stanley in New York, had employed a nanny who was in the US legally but wasn’t authorized to work.
Comments on Twitter speculating on the reasons for Nauert’s withdrawal ranged from she would have sunk in the nomination hearing to: “I’m not buying that nanny story. If they wanted her, she’d have sailed through confirmation. There’s something else going on.”
When PassBlue spoke to a government official on Feb. 15 about Nauert’s preparations for the Senate hearing — which was still unscheduled — the official said that Nauert remained a candidate. PassBlue reported on Jan. 14 that the White House hadn’t sent the nomination paperwork to the Senate for the hearing yet. An official blamed the federal government shutdown for the delay in Nauert’s paperwork, a process that requires reviews by federal lawyers and numerous agencies.
Nauert was apparently preparing for the hearing over the last two months, including working from the State Department every day.
Nauert, who is a former commentator for Fox News, 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 as a precise value.
Meanwhile at the US mission to the UN, Jonathan Cohen has been the acting ambassador since Haley left on Dec. 31. Cohen, a career Foreign Service member, was nominated as deputy ambassador in February 2018 by Trump. He has been appearing in UN Security Council meetings regularly, reading speeches on such topics as the threat of climate change to global security and peacekeeping missions.
The US mission may not be rudderless, but it lost the deputy ambassador at the end of January. Kelley Currie, who represented the US on the Economic and Social Council, one of the five main bodies of the UN, and was the alternate representative of the US to the General Assembly, left on Jan. 31.
At a reception of diplomats and human-rights experts, she told people gathered there that she was leaving but gave no explanation as to why or where she was headed, except that she was returning to Washington. Cohen told PassBlue that he didn’t know why Currie left.
Relatedly, on Feb. 15, a spokeswoman for the US mission dispelled a rumor that Austin Smith, the deputy chief of staff for policy, will replace Currie. He was brought in by Haley from South Carolina, having been her deputy chief of staff when she was governor for the state.
When Trump first mentioned the possibility of Nauert as a nominee in November, he then seemed to reconsider. One name that surfaced in diplomatic circles at the UN was Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin. On Twitter, after the Nauert withdrawal, the speculations of people to replace her veered from Ivanka Trump to Sarah Palin.
Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, she 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 near Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working in New York 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.