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Heather Nauert Is Expected To Be Chosen As U.N. Ambassador


President Trump is expected to announce today that he is nominating Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert is currently the State Department spokesperson. She is a former host on Fox News. She would replace Nikki Haley, who is leaving the post at the end of the year. Let's talk about this with NPR's Michele Kelemen, who joins us.

Hi, Michele.


GREENE: So tell us a little bit more about Heather Nauert.

KELEMEN: Well, as you said, she was on Fox. She was actually on "Fox & Friends," which is one of the president's favorite shows.

GREENE: Watches, like, every day, right?

KELEMEN: (Laughter) Right. And then she was tapped to become spokesperson under Rex Tillerson. Remember him?

GREENE: Yeah. Seems like a long time ago.

KELEMEN: That's right. He didn't really have much of a rapport with her. She didn't travel with him. But all of that changed when Mike Pompeo became secretary of state. He brought her along on trips. And also, she stepped into a much higher-ranking post of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

GREENE: Yeah. Am I remembering - she - there was some criticism about her and social media during some of her travels.

KELEMEN: Well, there was recently - when we were in Saudi Arabia, you know, in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist's death, trying to get answers about that. And she posted on her Instagram sort of a tourist-like picture of herself. She got some flack on Instagram about that. There was also a time when she cited D-Day - the Allied invasion of Normandy against the Nazis - as an example of America's strong relationship with Germany that she said at the podium. But, you know, despite some of these missteps, she has a reputation of a smart, hard-working spokesperson. And probably most importantly, she's been a forceful advocate for this administration and for this president.

GREENE: Well, talk a little more about what she might bring to this new job if the president indeed nominates her and she's confirmed.

KELEMEN: Well, you know, it's interesting because she had no government experience before this. Even in journalism, she only had some brief overseas assignments, including a stint in Baghdad for ABC News when she was working there. And you compare that with some of the giants who have held the U.N. ambassador job - people like George H.W. Bush, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright, many others - you know, politicians, diplomats, academics. Even Nikki Haley, who's leaving at the end of this term - she didn't really have much foreign policy experience, but she was a governor, an elected official. And she had political skills that were really useful as she negotiated with other world powers at the U.N.

GREENE: Well, speaking of Haley, what do you see as her legacy? How is she wrapping up her two years here?

KELEMEN: Well, she's really made a point of trying to push back on what she sees as the anti-Israel bias at the U.N. Just yesterday, in kind of her swan song, she challenged the U.N. General Assembly, which has passed a whole lot of resolutions that are critical of Israel. They passed just one resolution condemning the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The resolution failed. But, you know, it was a chance for her to, again, show that this body is not working the way it should be.

GREENE: And this job of U.N. ambassador - it kind of shifts back and forth, does it not? Sometimes it's a Cabinet-level post, sometimes not.

KELEMEN: Yeah. Well, you know, usually only the Democrats make it a Cabinet-level job kind of to highlight the importance of the U.N. Haley wanted it that way because she wanted a seat at the table in Washington in addition to New York.

GREENE: NPR's Michele Kelemen talking to us about President Trump's likely pick for his new U.N. ambassador.

Michele, thanks as always. We appreciate it.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.