Dina Powell takes herself out of consideration for UN role

Candidate decides to stay at Goldman Sachs

By ELISE LABOTT, JEFF ZELENY AND ELI WATKINS, CNN
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(CNN) - Dina Powell told President Donald Trump on Thursday that she was taking herself out of consideration to be the US ambassador to the United Nations and had decided to stay at Goldman Sachs, a source at the investment bank familiar with her decision said.

Powell, a former deputy national security adviser to Trump, faced hurdles inside the White House to get the position given her tense relationship with White House chief of staff John Kelly, according to sources familiar with the process.

Following UN Ambassador Nikki Haley's announcement this week that she would step down, Powell's name came forward as a likely replacement, with Trump telling reporters the same day Haley's resignation was announced that Powell was in consideration for the role.

But Powell faced several opposing forces inside the White House. One official said her nomination became "incredibly more complicated" by the escalating diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia.

"No one knows more about the relationship between Jared and MBS than her," an official said, referring to Trump's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The official said the situation could have become a central issue in a Senate confirmation hearing should Trump have nominated her and she accepted the role.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said Thursday that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been murdered and there was "no question the Saudis" were responsible.

According to Goldman Sachs, Powell was with the bank for about a decade before she left for Trump's White House. Early in the administration, she moved from advising Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump to the National Security Council, and CNN reported late last year that she was leaving to return to Goldman Sachs.

The move to the UN would have made Powell one of the most public faces of the administration's foreign policy and subjected her to Senate confirmation.

While at the White House, Powell was deeply involved in the administration's Middle East policy and instrumental in planning all of Trump's overseas trips as well as his debut at the UN General Assembly in September 2017. A source with intimate knowledge of discussions previously told CNN that Haley was supportive of Powell replacing her, and multiple sources said Powell maintained a close relationship with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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