Trump to Nominate Kelly Knight Craft as U.N. Ambassador

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Friday that he was nominating Kelly Knight Craft, the United States ambassador to Canada, to succeed Nikki R. Haley as ambassador to the United Nations, days after his first choice for the position withdrew from consideration.

Mr. Trump announced the nomination on Twitter, writing that Ms. Craft “has done an outstanding job representing our Nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our Country will be represented at the highest level.”

Ms. Craft and her husband, Joseph W. Craft III, a billionaire Kentucky coal magnate, were major contributors to Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and donated to his inaugural committee. In total, the couple donated more than $2 million to Mr. Trump’s candidacy and inauguration.

Ms. Craft, who turns 57 on Sunday, made her name in Kentucky politics as a fund-raiser for Republican candidates and officeholders. She and Mr. Craft are close to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who is the de facto head of the state party in his home state of Kentucky.

Mr. McConnell had urged the president to choose Ms. Craft to succeed Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, who announced her resignation in October and left the job at the end of the year.

“The President made an exceptional choice for this critical post,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement after Mr. Trump announced his choice. “Kelly Craft is a strong advocate for American interests and will be a powerful representative of our great nation at the U.N.”

Mr. Trump’s first pick for the position, Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman at the State Department and former “Fox & Friends” host, dropped from the running on Saturday night, in part because she had a nanny who was in the United States legally but did not have the proper work visa, according to people familiar with the process. Ms. Nauert had initially declined when approached about the position. But after Mr. Trump failed to find other candidates to fill the post, and pressed her, she accepted, according to people involved in the process.

A renewed push then began for Ms. Craft, with advocates telling the president that she would have a smooth confirmation since she was recently confirmed by the Senate for her post in Canada. She also has some prior experience at the United Nations, having served as an alternate delegate to the world organization under the administration of President George W. Bush.

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said in a statement that “Ambassador Craft has been an outstanding advocate for America’s national security and economic interests in Canada and she is extremely well-qualified to do the same at the United Nations.”

John R. Bolton, the national security adviser and a former United Nations ambassador himself, backed the choice of Ms. Craft, according to a person familiar with the process.

After Ms. Nauert removed herself from the running, many Trump allies and former officials who represent Mr. Trump’s base made a public push for Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, to get the nod. Those voices included Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, and Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary. Mr. Grenell was at the White House this week for meetings with senior administration officials, according to an administration official. But Mr. Trump had expressed hesitation about removing him from his post in Germany.

The United Nations ambassador position is not expected to remain a cabinet-level post, as it was under Ms. Haley.

Nonetheless, the post of ambassador to the 193-member United Nations is one of the most high-profile diplomatic positions in any White House administration, and in some ways the person holding the post is America’s face to the world.