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Trump said to pick former UN spokesman Grenell for NATO post

By NICK WADHAMS AND JENNIFER JACOBS | Bloomberg News | Published: March 8, 2017

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — President Donald Trump will nominate Richard Grenell to be his ambassador to NATO, according to a White House official, a selection that would make the longtime loyalist and former U.S. spokesman at the United Nations the highest-ranking openly gay person to serve in the administration.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Grenell, 50, declined to comment. The White House official asked not to be identified because the position hasn’t been formally announced.

A spokesman under John Bolton and three other Republican-administration ambassadors at the U.N. from 2001 through 2008, Grenell has been a Fox News contributor for four years and a Trump supporter since the start of the campaign.

The founder of Capitol Media Partners, he frequently tangles with journalists on his Twitter feed, accusing reporters of being unfair to Trump and Republicans. His name had circulated as a candidate for Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., though the job ultimately went to then South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

If he wins Senate confirmation, Grenell will take a pivotal position in the Trump administration. The president spurred widespread anxiety in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization when he called the alliance “obsolete” and suggested during the campaign the U.S. might not honor its defense commitments if other members don’t pay their share.

In 2014, Grenell said on Fox that Congress should push for Ukraine to join NATO, a move that would infuriate Russia. He later praised Trump for threatening to walk away from NATO, calling it a smart negotiating tactic.

“I think this is about NATO reform, I don’t think this is about getting rid of a NATO alliance,” Grenell said on Fox last year. “I think this is businessman Donald Trump showing that he knows how to reform.”

In recent weeks, other officials including Defense Secretary James Mattis have said NATO members must come up with plans by the end of the year to fulfill promises to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Grenell’s selection needed sign-off from the Defense Department given the job’s prominent national-security element.

In 2012, Grenell was hired to be a foreign-policy spokesman for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, a move gay Republicans praised at the time as a sign of progress in their party. He later resigned following a backlash from social conservatives, saying his effectiveness had been “greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.”

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