The Trump administration's ambassadorial nominees to Afghanistan and Germany will not be approved by Senate Republicans, according to three congressional aides who cite the nominees’ isolationist and anti-Israel views.
The senior Republican congressional aides said that the nomination of retired U.S Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor is almost certain to fail if it comes to a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The nomination of William Ruger, a U.S. Navy reserve officer and key figure in Charles Koch's philanthropic empire, to be ambassador to Afghanistan, is unlikely to get a vote from the committee before the November election.
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The Fox News host Tucker Carlson is linked to both nominees: Macgregor has been a frequent guest on Carlson’s show, arguing that there is no evidence Iran "wants to attack" the United States and that neoconservatives have manipulated America’s foreign policy to benefit Israel.
And Charles Koch was a major funder of Carlson’s Daily Caller news site, a relationship Ruger likely facilitated in his role leading the Charles Koch Institute.
The White House formally submitted Ruger’s nomination to the Senate on Thursday. The next ambassador to Afghanistan will play a critical role as the administration works to prevent the country from descending into chaos.
Ruger, whose nomination is unlikely to see a vote due to the congressional schedule before the election, is viewed by his supporters as an opponent of U.S. military intervention who would work to limit the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and the region at large. He was described on Wednesday by Arta Moeini, research director at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, as a "genuine anti-interventionist" who believes in a "less militarized" American foreign policy. Moeini, who discussed the nomination during a panel discussion earlier this week, pointed to Ruger and Macgregor as good examples of Trump’s isolationist tendencies.
Macgregor’s nomination, submitted to the Senate in late July, was also met with outrage from Republican senators, who pointed to his controversial comments about Jewish Americans manipulating U.S. foreign policy and his attempts to downplay the threat from Iran.
"The administration has sent the Senate three foreign policy nominees with no chance of clearing the Senate, which has to be some form of Guinness World Record for incompetent congressional relations," said one senior GOP congressional official, citing opposition to Ruger, Macgregor, and Anthony Tata, who was recently tapped to become the Pentagon’s number two spot.
"I do not understand why the White House has nominated an anti-Israel, pro-open borders, hardcore isolationist to an important diplomatic post," said a second senior Republican congressional aide of Ruger, echoing the sentiments of several other officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon only on background about the brewing confrontation. "He is not confirmable, and the president is not being well-served by his team."
The controversial picks reflect the ascendance of John McEntee, the director of the Presidential Personnel Office, according to congressional aides. McEntee, Trump’s onetime bodyman who was dismissed in 2018 amid a "financial crime investigation," according to CNN, and then rehired in February, shares the isolationist foreign policy views of both nominees.
In addition to Charles Koch’s investment in the Daily Caller, Ruger has overseen a growing investment in the American Conservative and RealClearPolitics. The American Conservative earlier this year celebrated McEntee as "the new, paleocon head of Trump administration personnel," describing him as "a fan of the articles of [American Conservative] founder Pat Buchanan."
One veteran Republican strategist said McEntee is creating problems for Trump ahead of the 2020 election.
"John McEntee keeps advancing people who are either unconfirmable or just too late," the source said. "He always blames Senate GOP neocons and Tucker Carlson is on his side, but that's the problem. When you send nominees who have called Republican members warmongers on TV for four years or you send nominees a few weeks before the election, you're just creating headaches for the president and his campaign."
Bernie Sanders, among others, has embraced the Ruger nomination. Sanders’s Senate office has maintained a close relationship with the Quincy Institute, the think tank backed by Koch and George Soros. Sanders told PBS’s Margaret Hoover that he "would be happy to talk to [Ruger] and hear what he has to say."