Brett McGurk, President Obama’s choice to be the next ambassador to Iraq, has withdrawn his nomination.
Earlier this month, a series of flirty 2008 emails between McGurk and his current-wife (who at the time of the exchange was a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Baghdad) were made public, and they became part of Republican opposition to his nomination.
“Iraq urgently needs an ambassador,” McGurk wrote in a letter to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent Monday, according to the New York Times. “The country is in the midst of a political crisis and our mission is undergoing rapid transformation.”
Last week, six of the nine Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked Obama to pick a new nominee for the post, according to Reuters, but the White House had stood by McGurk as recently as Sunday.
“We’ve made this nomination and we think he will ably serve as ambassador,” Senior White House adviser David Plouff told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
McGurk, who began his work in Iraq during the Bush administration, had also been criticized by Republicans for his role in the failed negotiations last year with Iraq to keep a residual U.S. force in the country beyond 2011.
Last Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal announced that McGurk’s wife, Gina Chon, had resigned, “after acknowledging that while based in Iraq she violated the Dow Jones Code of Conduct by sharing certain unpublished news articles with Brett McGurk, then a member of the U.S. National Security Council in Iraq.” Since 2010, Chon had worked as an M&A reporter for Money & Investing in New York.
A few days later, Buzzfeed posted a copy of an email sent by Chon to friends, in which she wrote that “underneath the half-truths and outright lies is a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married… In the process we formed a strong connection with Iraq, a place where we lost many friends.”
“I’m not trying to absolve myself of responsibility,” Chon also wrote. “People were hurt along the way and for that, I am truly sorry. I made stupid mistakes four years ago in Iraq while working for the Wall Street Journal and for that, I’m also sorry. I had to leave my job at a news organization I love and for that, I am heartbroken.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com