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State Department spokeswoman Nauert in the mix for U.N. Ambassador

POLITICO logo POLITICO 10/16/2018 By Eliana Johnson
Heather Nauert standing in a room: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert’s addition to the list underscores the extent to which TV chops are a key to success in the Trump administration. © Alex Brandon/AP Photo State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert’s addition to the list underscores the extent to which TV chops are a key to success in the Trump administration.

Outgoing United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley made clear her value as an advocate for the administration on television—and the White House is looking for somebody telegenic to replace her.

Among the candidates President Donald Trump is considering, according to three people close to the president: former Fox News host Heather Nauert, who currently serves as the State Department’s spokeswoman and acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

At Foggy Bottom, Nauert has grown close to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with whom she was traveling in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. White House aides view her as a capable advocate for the Trump administration’s foreign policy. She is also a leading candidate to replace White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she leaves the White House, though that job may be less appealing given that the frequency of on-camera press briefings has vastly diminished over the last two months.

Neither Nauert nor the White House replied to a request for comment.

But White House officials stressed that the process for selecting Haley’s replacement is still in the early stages and that the pool of candidates, which includes ambassadors Kelly Knight Craft, Jamie McCourt, and Ric Grenell — Trump’s envoys to Canada, France, and Germany, respectively — will likely change before the president makes a final selection.

Nauert’s addition to the list, which has Fox News staffers buzzing, according to a former executive, underscores the extent to which TV chops are a key to success in an administration where the commander-in-chief is a 24-7 viewer.

Nauert did not have foreign policy credentials before joining the State Department early last year. But Trump officials believe she has capably explained and defended Trump policies in her State Department briefings, although they have been less frequent than those of her predecessors.

U.N. ambassadors typically work under little day-to-day scrutiny but are often called upon to give speeches or make television appearances on behalf of a president’s foreign policy.

That is not to say the job is all cosmetic: Haley helped to win tougher sanctions on North Korea last year that Trump has called essential to pressuring Kim Jong Un into dialogue over his nuclear program.

If she has tapped for the job, Nauert, who is now based in Washington, D.C., would have to relocate to New York City, where United Nations headquarters are located. “Her husband and kids are in NYC, FYI,” said a senior administration official.

Gabriella Orr and Daniel Lippman contributed to reporting.

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