President Trump is standing by his controversial choice for Colombia ambassador, who will face a grilling by Senate Republicans during a confirmation hearing set for March 7.
A trio of Senate Republicans for months have called on Trump to rescind the nomination of Joseph Macmanus, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service who previously served as one of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's closest advisers.
Several Republican senators have vowed to block his nomination, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is strongly backing Macmanus, who is currently serving as one of his top advisers, for the post.
Macmanus's confirmation hearing next week will give Rubio, who is chairing it, the opportunity to press Macmanus on conservatives' concerns.
Rubio and other Republicans want more information about Macmanus's ties to Clinton, especially the role he played in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks and during the scandal over Clinton's use of a private email server.
They also worry that Macmanus does not support Trump's "America First" agenda or a crackdown on Colombia's failure to prevent a dramatic spike in coca production and cocaine exports to the United States despite the U.S. giving the country billions of dollars in aid and military support to help Bogota fight drug cartels and left-wing insurgent groups.
Trump last fall threatened to decertify Colombia as a partner in the war against drugs unless Bogota reverses the record surge in coca production since 2015.
Macmanus also angered six conservative senators in August by essentially rebuffing their request for an investigation into whether the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development were using taxpayer money to support liberal causes they viewed as having no clear national-security interest.
The senators, including Cruz and Lee, along with Sens. Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Bill Cassidy (La.), and Thom Tillis (N.C.), specifically wanted a review of USAID work with groups funded by George Soros "to push a progressive agenda and invigorate the political left," the Heritage Foundation's Mike Gonzales wrote for the New York Post.
The senators cited several Soros-funded projects, including one in Colombia in which USAID funds support a Soros-owned media portal that has criticized Trump, capitalism, and "patriarchal society."