Candidates vie to be Trump's next UN ambassador

Heather Nauert withdraws candidacy

By CNN'S LIZ STARK CONTRIBUTED REPORTING
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

United Nations General Assembly Building in New York City

A leading contender for the vacant United Nations Ambassador role made a not so subtle pitch for the job in a Fox News interview on Wednesday.

John James, a former Michigan Republican Senate candidate, said "of course" he wants to be the next US ambassador to the UN, during the interview. The Iraq War veteran emphasized his military experience and business background and called it an "honor" to be considered for the position.

But he's not the only figure in the running as President Donald Trump considers candidates to replace Nikki Haley after his initial pick, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew her candidacy on Saturday.

Earlier this week, CNN reported that Trump has mentioned James as a leading contender for role, according to a source close to the White House. US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, US Ambassador to France Jamie McCourt, US Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft and former National Security Council official Dina Powell are also being considered.

While James made his interest known on Trump's favorite TV station, Grenell will be stopping in Washington for unplanned meetings at the White House later this week.

Grenell, who is not Trump's top choice for the job according source familiar with the process, is seen as one of the few US ambassadors who has a direct line to the White House and has close ties to national security adviser John Bolton.

The administration's plan to downgrade the position from the Cabinet level post Haley held has made it less attractive to Grenell, according to sources familiar with his thinking.

Earlier this week Grenell hosted about a dozen leaders from the LGBT community in Europe at his residence in Berlin, according to a State Department spokesperson and those familiar with the meeting. Grenell, who is openly gay, is coordinating with US embassies in the region to press countries to decriminalize homosexuality.

However, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino seemed to downplay Grenell's initiative on Tuesday.

"This really is not a big policy departure," Palladino said. "This is longstanding and it is bipartisan."

While James and Grenell are in the limelight this week -- with James on Fox News and Grenell heading to Washington -- Powell has not publicly indicated that she is interested in the job.

Before Nauert was picked by Trump, Powell was initially considered a top choice. She took herself out of consideration when she decided to stay at Goldman Sachs and spend time with her family. It does not appear that anything has changed that would make her want the job now that it is open again.

McCourt has stayed quiet and carried on with her duties in France. But she has made it clear on social media, that she is hard at work. On Wednesday she tweeted a photo of her with President Emmanuel Macron and his wife. She wrote that she was "delighted" to be a member of the G7 Advisory Council for Gender Equality.

Craft is well-liked by the White House, with some insiders saying she is a top pick for the job. In Ottawa, she sought to help maintain relations between the US and Canada during the NAFTA renegotiations. She also has some experience at the UN as she was an alternate delegate to the body during President George W. Bush's administration.

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