According to NBC News, Trump has a history of choosing questionable ambassadors. Trump’s pick for ambassador to the Bahamas incorrectly said that the Bahamas was part of the U.S. It is an independent country. Trump’s pick for sensitive position of ambassador to the United Arab Emirates was a real estate developer who had no diplomatic experience. Trump’s pick for Morocco was a car dealer. For Slovenia he picked the founder of an evangelical charity. None of his picks had diplomatic experience, but all were big donors to Trump’s presidential inaugural committee. The committee is now under federal investigation.
NBC News found that at least 14 of the inaugural fund’s major contributors later became nominated for ambassadorships. All of them donated an average of slightly more than $350,000 per person. Although Trump insists that they are qualified to represent the U.S. in other countries, six of the nominees have stalled for months in the Senate, and one has stalled for approximately two years.
More, Trump has 52 ambassador vacancies out of 250. When Obama was two years into his presidency, he had 11 vacancies. When Bush was two years in, he had 15. There are now many vacancies in important countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Nicholas Burns, a former ambassador and current professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government says that Trump’s confirmations are moving along slowly because Trump was slow to nominate people. He also said that it was possible “there may be questions about the qualifications of some of these people.” Burns says the Senate is given the right to hold up confirmations if they have such questions.
Presidents have awarded foreign posts to large contributors before. Kirk W.B. Wagner became Obama’s ambassador to Singapore after he gave over $200,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign. Mercer Reynolds gave Bush and the GOP over $100,000 and subsequently became ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Yet, Trump is nominating more political appointees to top-level posts than usual, and he is seeing more stall in the Senate as a result.
One of the nominations that has stalled in the Senate is that of Doug Machester, a real estate magnate based in San Diego. He was chosen to go to the Bahamas after giving $1 million to Trump’s presidential inaugural committee. During his nomination hearing, he falsely stated that the Bahamas was a U.S. protectorate. The Bahamas were once a British territory, but has been an independent nation since 1972. His nomination has stalled for close to two years.
For the post of ambassador to the UAE, Trump nominated chairman and chief executive of Walbridge Aldinger Co., John Rakolta. Rakolta, who has no diplomatic experience donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration. His posting is now stalled in the senate.
Although six of Trump’s nominations have stalled, eight others who donated to the fund have become ambassadors. Trump appointed one of his bankruptcy lawyers, David Melech Friedman, to the Israel ambassadorship. Friedman was a partner at law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. The firm did legal work for Trump’s casino ventures in Atlantic City and later donated $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration.
A spokesperson from the State Department gave a statement on the appointees:
"Our Ambassadors are proud to represent the United States of America to some of our most important partners across the globe as they carry out the goals of the Trump Administration," the statement said. "These ambassadors' financial contributions have long been a matter of public record. They are honored the President bestowed this trust upon them, and they hold their service in the highest regard."