State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Saturday said she has withdrawn her name from consideration for the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
In December, President Donald Trump had announced he was picking Nauert to fill the vacancy caused when Nikki Haley stepped down from that position, leaving at the end of 2018.
Media reports said late Saturday Nauert has withdrawn due to complications surrounding her employment of a nanny who was in the country legally, but not legally allowed to work.
According to The Washington Post, the nanny had worked for the Nauerts for 10 years and was paid in cash, but she had not paid taxes. When the family discovered that taxes had not been paid, The Post reported, the Nauerts demanded that the tax bill be paid.
Earlier Saturday, before news of the the nanny complication emerged, Nauert said, in a statement, "I am grateful to President Trump and Secretary (Mike) Pompeo for the trust they placed in me for considering me for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. However, the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.
"Serving in the Administration for the past two years has been one of the highest honors of my life and I will always be grateful to the President, the Secretary, and my colleagues at the State Department for their support," Nauert said in a statement released by the State Department Saturday.
In the statement, Secretary of State Pompeo praised Nauert for performing her duties with "unequalled excellence," and wished her the best "in whatever role she finds herself."
In nominating Nauert, Trump said she was "very talented, very smart, very quick. And I think she's going to be respected by all."
Nauert joined the State Department in April 2017 after a career in broadcast journalism, first serving under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then under Pompeo. In addition to serving as spokesperson, Nauert also served as acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs from March to October of this year.
She came to State from Fox News, where she co-anchored Fox and Friends, the morning program that Trump says he watches regularly. The president's other recent hires from Fox News include White House communications chief Bill Shine and national security adviser John Bolton.
Nauert likely would have faced tough questioning during her Senate confirmation hearings about her apparent lack of diplomatic or policymaking experience.
The Wilson Center's Aaron David Miller said Nauert had a different profile from past U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations.
"I think Heather Nauert is smart. She is a quick study. She will learn the brief. But, I think it [the U.S. ambassador job] is not going to be what it was under Nikki Haley, which was a serious competitor under a vacuum at the NSC [National Security Council] and at the State Department under Tillerson."
Miller, who advised several secretaries of state under Republican and Democratic administrations, said Haley took advantage of the "empty space" created by media-averse Tillerson to stake out positions on a whole range of foreign policy issues, and that was not likely going to be the case with Nauert.
Smaller role seen
"Heather Nauert is not going to be a big-time player in the deliberations on substance in the administration," he said. "I doubt, on an issue like Syria, unless it pertains to the U.N., that the president is going to call her up and say, 'What do you think?' "
Both Trump and Pompeo have been highly critical of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, with Pompeo noting in a Brussels speech earlier this week that "multilateralism has become viewed as an end unto itself. The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done."
During Nauert's twice-weekly briefings at the State Department and her own trips, she has shown a passion for human rights issues. While serving with Tillerson, Nauert took trips on her own initiative, visiting Myanmar and Bangladesh last year to meet with Rohingya refugees.
She also visited Israel and strongly defended Trump's controversial decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Nauert is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and Mount Vernon College in Washington. The 48-year-old is a wife and mother of two young sons, and was born in Rockford, Ill.
Steve Herman at the White House, and Cindy Saine and Nike Ching at the State Department contributed to this report.