Dems To Force Vote on Biden Nominee Who Hindered Return of American Hostage

Republicans placed hold on Elizabeth Richard nomination over concerns she didn't do enough to pressure Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon

Biden counterterrorism nominee Elizabeth Richard (LinkedIn)
December 4, 2023

Senate Democrats this week are poised to force a confirmation vote on a Biden administration nominee who has faced criticism for appeasing Iran-linked terrorists and hindering the return of an American hostage, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) filed cloture last week on Elizabeth Richard, a former American ambassador to Lebanon, setting the stage for a Tuesday vote in the face of a Republican hold on the nominee who is tapped to become the Biden administration’s next coordinator for counterterrorism, according to Senate sources familiar with the matter.

Republican critics like Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) placed a hold on Richard's nomination last year. They say that as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon from 2016 to 2020, Richard kowtowed to the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which effectively runs the country, and failed to prioritize the release of an imprisoned American hostage who was wrongfully detained by the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese government. During her tenure, Richard lobbied for increased U.S. funding to Hezbollah-controlled security forces and avoided diplomatic confrontation with the terror group, a policy that critics say undermined American counterterrorism operations in the region. Schumer has the power as majority leader to push the nomination forward over these GOP concerns.

The hostage, Amer Fakhoury, spent six months in prison and was released after Richard was removed from her post and replaced by current ambassador Dorothy Shea. Fakhoury developed cancer while he was imprisoned and died five months after his return to the United States, drawing accusations by his family that Richard’s inaction led to his death.

"As the family of the late U.S. hostage, Amer Fakhoury, we are shocked by the news that Ambassador Richard is being confirmed as the next counterterrorism [czar] in the State Department," Fakhoury’s family said in a statement last year, when Richard was nominated for her new post by President Joe Biden. "Our father would still be here today if the U.S. embassy under Ambassador [Richard] prioritized an American citizen’s life first instead of catering to the Hezbollah-backed Lebanese government."

Richard has also come under fire for advocating increased U.S. funding to Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF), a national police force that critics say is under Hezbollah’s thumb. The ISF played a role in breaking up Israeli spy cells stationed in Lebanon that were spying on Hamas and Hezbollah forces prior to the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel.

U.S. support for these forces are said to have contributed to Israel’s inability to effectively monitor Hamas and Hezbollah movements prior to the October terror attack, according to Lebanon analyst Tony Badran.

"Elizabeth Richard’s tenure as ambassador to Lebanon shows that her idea of counterterrorism is appeasing Hezbollah and funding allies of Hezbollah—an evil terrorist group backed by Iran," Cruz said earlier this year on the Senate floor during a speech opposing the nominee. "Now the Biden administration wants to make her the State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Americans will be less safe if she is confirmed."

Richard has also faced criticism for refusing to allow an American military force to provide amplified security at the U.S. embassy in Beirut in early 2020, following the Trump administration’s assassination of Iranian terror leader Qassem Soleimani.

The former ambassador made the decision days before vacating her post, one U.S. official told Politico earlier this year, and did so without consulting then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo or other senior State Department officials.

"It was perceived as an act of insubordination," one former U.S. official told the publication.