Trump expected to name former Rumsfeld aide to top Middle East position

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE is expected to name a former top adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to a top Middle Eastern affairs position at the State Department, BuzzFeed reported Thursday.

The president will name David Schenker, currently a director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, to the position of assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, according to BuzzFeed.

Schenker would be the first State Department outsider since the 1990s to hold the position, which has traditionally been held by career diplomats. He previously served as the Pentagon’s top policy aide overseeing the Arab nations of the Levant portion of the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. It’s unclear when Schenker will be nominated, but administration sources stressed that the choice was made.

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“Don’t expect an announcement today or tomorrow, but he is expected to be the nominee,” a senior administration official told BuzzFeed.

News of Schenker’s nomination was met with initial praise from some Democrats, including the Democratic-aligned Center for American Progress (CAP), which praised Schenker’s record in a statement Thursday.

“David has the benefit of past government experience and has a solid track record of policy research on many of the key issues impacting the region,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at CAP.

Schenker has sometimes criticized Trump’s handling of foreign policy. In August, Schenker criticized the Trump administration’s decision to cut aid to the Lebanese army, arguing that it sent a signal to Iran that America was “abandoning” its allies.

“Pragmatically speaking, the U.S. assistance is helping the LAF better secure Lebanon against the threat of Sunni Islamist militants,” Schenker wrote. “Perhaps more important, ending the program would be taken as a clear signal by Tehran — and other states in the region — that Washington is abandoning its interests and vulnerable allies in Lebanon.” 

If nominated, Schenker faces a confirmation process in the GOP-controlled Senate. The Trump administration has faced criticism in the past for leaving key positions at the State Department unfilled, criticism that Trump himself has rejected.

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