Mich. native Grenell advances as German ambassador
Washington — The U.S. Senate voted 56-42 Thursday to approve the nomination of Michigan native and former United Nations spokesman Richard A. Grenell to be the next U.S. ambassador to Germany.
Michigan’s Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township voted to reject the nomination.
Grenell’s nomination had been stalled in the chamber for months, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, moved to end debate this week ahead of a Friday visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington.
President Donald Trump nominated Grenell in September, and he is Trump’s first openly gay appointee. The president expressed his frustration about the delay just this week.
“The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans!” Trump tweeted Monday.
Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon last month blocked a vote on Grenell, saying he could not support a nominee with a “lengthy track record of tweets attacking both prominent Democratic and prominent Republican women.”
Merkley said the tweets have continued since his nomination and show “a disregard for the seriousness of the position to which he is nominated.
“Senator Merkley is disturbed by Mr. Grenell’s significant history of making misogynistic and other incendiary statements online and believes Mr. Grenell has continued to show questionable judgment since his nomination, including retweeting Russian-linked Wikileaks propaganda as recently as this February,” Merkley spokeswoman Martina McLennan said.
“Mr. Grenell has also been dismissive of the threat of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. — a fact that is doubly concerning as Germany is one of our closest and most important allies in pushing back on Russian aggression on the world stage.”
The group Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT conservatives, has criticized Senate Democrats holding up Grenell as partisan gamesmanship.
“The votes are there to confirm (Grenell), we know that,” Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo told CNN this week. “We need a formal and official chief presence in Germany.”
While Grenell lives in California, he has Michigan roots — born in Muskegon and graduating from Jenison High School in Ottawa County in 1984.
A foreign policy commentator and Fox News contributor, Grenell was previously spokesman for the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2008, serving under four U.S. ambassadors: John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad.
In 2004, Danforth appointed Grenell as an alternate representative to the U.N. Security Council with full voting rights and privileges.
Grenell briefly served as a spokesman on national security and foreign policy issues for Mitt Romney’s 2012 Republican presidential campaign — the first openly gay spokesman for a GOP presidential candidate.
He founded the international consulting firm Capitol Media Partners in 2010.
He previously worked for Republican then-U.S. Reps. Dave Camp of Midland and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, as well as a spokesman for New York Gov. George Pataki’s administration.
Grenell earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree in government and public administration from Evangel College in Missouri.
Trump has tapped other allies from Michigan to serve as ambassadors, including former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who is serving as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.
If approved by the Senate, Bloomfield Hills businessman and Republican fundraiser John Rakolta Jr. will serve as the next ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
Trump in December nominated Suburban Collection Chairman and CEO David T. Fischer to be ambassador to Morocco, and in February consultant Joseph Cella was picked to be ambassador to Fiji as well as four other south and central Pacific island nations.