Despite several warnings from the two GOP senators, President Donald Trump moved forward with nominating a prominent career State Department official and a top aide to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the ambassador to Colombia.
Late on last Tuesday, when most of the lawmakers were traveling for their Thanksgiving break, Trump tapped Joseph MacManus, a 30-year old veteran of the Foreign Service, to become the ambassador to Colombia.
MacManus’s nomination has the support of both the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Tom Shannon, who is a career diplomat and had served in the State Department as the undersecretary for political affairs and is considered Tillerson’s right-hand man.
Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee had both voiced their concerns that MacManus was too close to Clinton during her tenure and does not share Trump’s “America First” agenda and other foreign-policy goals.
As one of Clinton’s closest advisers, MacManus was also deeply involved in the State Department’s initial response to the Benghazi attack and had become entangled in the scandal over Clinton’s use of a private email account, the senators had argued.
MacManus also recently rebuffed Cruz, Lee, and four of the other conservative GOP senators who had asked for an investigation into whether the State Department and the U.S. Agency for the International Development were using the taxpayer dollars to support the liberal causes funded by George Soros that the senators view as having no clear national-security interest.
The senators further cited several Soros-funded projects, including the one in Colombia in which USAID funds support a Soros-owned media portal that has criticized Trump, capitalism, and the “patriarchal society.”
MacManus, in a written response to the senators, defended USAID’s work without responding to the senators’ concerns.
Some of the conservatives in the foreign-policy community reacted angrily to the MacManus nomination. They went on to say the role of ambassador to Colombia, Washington’s staunchest ally in the Latin America, is a critical one and any candidate for the post should have more extensive experience in the region.
The critics of MacManus have pressed Trump to choose a political appointee committed to the President’s agenda for the post, rather than a career diplomat that is entrenched in the State Department bureaucracy.
One expert on the U.S.-Colombia relations who had requested anonymity called the MacManus nomination to be “profoundly disappointing” and said that it showed that Trump is “actually filling and promoting” the swamp instead of draining it.
“The MacManus nomination was Tom Shannon’s choice all the way and shows the State Department bureaucrats are running roughshod over the White House political team who frankly ought to be embarrassed for allowing the nomination to be made,” the source stated.
“We can only hope that Sens. Cruz, Lee and [Marco] Rubio [of Florida] block his nomination,” the source had added.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.