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President Obama is being pressed by a delegation of prominent Republican Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee to withdraw his nomination of Brett McGurk as the next ambassador of Iraq.
McGurk, a former National Security Council member, has come under fire from lawmakers on Capitol Hill following the release of a series of explicit 2008 emails that detail his relationship with Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon, who resigned from the paper yesterday as a result of the scandal.
“There are strong concerns about Mr. McGurk’s qualifications, his ability to work with Iraqi officials, and now his judgment,” the senators write, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon. “The U.S.-Iraq relationship is of the utmost importance to us, and we respectfully request that you withdraw this nominee and nominate someone with the qualifications necessary to ensure success in this position.”
The letter is a major blow to McGurk’s nomination, which was hotly contested by prominent foreign policy leaders even before the torrid emails were leaked. The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on McGurk’s nomination during a business meeting on Tuesday.
The Senators expressed concerns that McGurk’s relationship with Chon—which blossomed while the duo were stationed in Iraq in 2008, and has sparked concerns that McGurk could have traded insider access for sex—leaves him unfit to serve in such a high level position.
“The public release of information detailing unprofessional conduct demonstrates poor judgment and will affect the nominee’s credibility in the country where he has been nominated to serve,” the senators write. “The fact that this information was not disclosed to Senators is also disconcerting.”
Those who lent their names to the letter include: Sens. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), John Barrasso (R.,Wyo.), Mike Lee (R., Utah), and James Risch (R., Idaho).
The Senators also outline a litany of anxieties about McGurk’s ability to perform the tasks necessary to keep the Iraqi-U.S. relationship on the right path.
“We believe the nominee lacks the leadership and management experience necessary to head America’s largest embassy, in one of the world’s most volatile regions,” the letter states. “The challenges are large enough for the most seasoned ambassadors to manage, let alone for someone with little direct management experience.”
“Members also have doubts that stem from Mr. McGurk’s lead role in the botched 2011 Status of Forces Agreement negotiations,” the missive continues. “Further, Senators are concerned by reports that some Iraqi political groups have stated they will not work with Mr. McGurk if confirmed as the next Ambassador.”
UPDATE: White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a Wednesday press briefing that the White House would stand by McGurk's nomination.
“The president has nominated Brett McGurk to be ambassador to Iraq for the United States," Carney said, in response to a question from the Associated Press. "We believe that our nation will be greatly served by his experiences in Iraq, and we look forward to the Senate’s advice and consent on his appointment.”