WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has no plans to withdraw Brett McGurk’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq, despite Republican demands after revelations that the nominee had engaged in an extra-marital affair with a journalist whom he later married, the White House said on Sunday.
Six of the nine Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote to Obama last week requesting a new choice to head the huge U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Asked on the CNN program “State of the Union” whether Obama had any plans to withdraw the nomination, senior White House adviser David Plouffe said, “No. We’ve made this nomination and we think he will ably serve as ambassador.”
In their letter to Obama, the Republican senators wrote: “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.”
Their letter referred to “the public release of information detailing unprofessional conduct” that they said “demonstrates poor judgment and will affect the nominee’s credibility in the country where he has been nominated to serve.”
According to media reports, Gina Chon, a Wall Street Journal reporter who had been covering the Iraq war, had an affair with McGurk when he lived in Baghdad and served in the Bush administration’s National Security Council. The two have since married. Chon has resigned from the Wall Street Journal.
A series of email exchanges between Chon and McGurk have surfaced as the ambassadorial nomination has been pending in the Senate.
The Republican senators - Jim DeMint, James Risch, John Barrasso, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio and James Inhofe - cited other reservations with McGurk, including concern over “reports that some Iraqi political groups have stated they will not work with Mr. McGurk if confirmed as the next ambassador.” (Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Will Dunham; editing by David Brunnstrom)