President Trump’s speech may be the main event at the United Nations this week, but many envoys will also be closely watching as US Ambassador Kelly Craft makes her debut in the second most prestigious job in American diplomacy.
Craft was sworn in on Sept. 12, just days before the annual UN General Assembly gathering began. Her arrival ended an eight-month hiatus created by the departure of Nikki Haley, a lag many say left the US mission adrift.
A Kentucky native who has been a major donor to the GOP and to Trump, Craft will be the fourth woman in a row to hold the post. She most recently served as the US ambassador to Canada, her only diplomatic experience besides a largely ceremonial role as an alternate delegate under President George W. Bush.
She drew strong criticism for her frequent absences that took her away from Ottawa for almost a year of her two-year tenure, sometimes to weigh in during negotiations to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement but often for personal trips.
Critics say her lack of experience makes her ill-suited for a job that is second in prominence only to the secretary of state, particularly in such challenging and perilous times.
Craft arrives as the world body confronts multiple problems — Iran’s step-by-step pullback from the 2015 nuclear deal, North Korea’s missile launches, Venezuela’s hunger crisis under the Maduro government, and concern over civilian casualties in Yemen, where Washington backs a Saudi-led bombing campaign.
This year’s General Assembly will be dominated by growing alarm over climate change, an issue where the White House’s hands-off approach has been as isolating as Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear deal last year.
Craft is up to the task, her allies say.
‘‘She did a tremendous amount of studying before she left here to acquaint herself with the various subjects she will face in New York,’’ said Nimrod Barkan, the Israeli ambassador to Canada who became friends with Craft in Ottawa. ‘‘She knows there’s a lot of studying to be done. But the State Department will help, sending people who are experts to advise her. In this case, it’s teamwork that counts, more so than one person.’’
Bribery case raises focus on GOP rising star, fund-raising
After a North Carolina insurance magnate and mega-political donor was indicted on bribery charges in April, some politicians who received his campaign dollars offloaded his money by giving it to charity.
But Republican party organizations tied to a GOP rising star in Congress show no signs of giving up nearly a quarter-million dollars from indicted businessman Greg Lindberg.
A spokesman for US Representative Mark Walker says the North Carolina congressman didn’t control, and therefore couldn’t give away, most of the over $238,000 that Lindberg gave his campaign and affiliated committees.
However, an elections specialist said Walker still benefited indirectly from the money that passed through his committees because it raised his clout in GOP circles.
The situation illustrates how political donations benefiting federal candidates can flow through a network of supporting groups, obscuring where the money winds up and what it’s used for.
Walker is an up-and-comer in GOP politics who once considered challenging incumbent Republican US Senator Thom Tillis next year.
Lindberg contributed to Walker and his committees during a period when the Durham businessman was North Carolina’s largest political donor, giving more than $5 million since 2016 to state and federal candidates and committees. He favored Republican causes and politicians, but also gave to Democrats.
In April, federal prosecutors unsealed indictments charging Lindberg, two associates, and former North Carolina Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes with trying to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Lindberg wanted special treatment for his insurance businesses and planned to funnel up to $2 million for Causey’s 2020 reelection campaign, prosecutors said. Causey, a Republican, reported the approach to federal investigators and helped them build their case. He faces no charges. A trial is scheduled later this year.
Leading Democrats gather for funeral of Emily Clyburn
Leading congressional Democrats and some of the party’s presidential contenders are gathering for the funeral of Emily Clyburn, wife of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Georgia Congressman John Lewis are among the House members attending services in West Columbia on Sunday for Emily Clyburn, who died last week at age 80.
The Clyburns met as students at South Carolina State University and had been married for nearly six decades. Emily Clyburn is remembered for her support of education and philanthropy, raising millions of dollars to help students attend the alma mater she and her husband shared.
Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are also attending Sunday’s service. Former vice president Joe Biden planned to attend another service Monday in Charleston.
Rival eyes Comanche event in Warren’s native state
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is focusing on reliably Republican Oklahoma with an appearance before the largest annual gathering of the Comanche Nation in the state where rival Elizabeth Warren was born.
Sanders’s Nation Fair Powwow visit may remind some of a sensitive subject for Warren, still criticized after her release last year of a DNA test meant to bolster her claim to Native American heritage. That was supposed to rebut President Trump’s mocking of the Massachusetts senator as ‘‘Pocahontas,’’ but only intensified it.
Last month, Warren offered a public apology to Native Americans, trying to show that the issue won’t be a political drag in her White House campaign.
The Comanches, who are holding their 28th annual Nation Fair Powwow, are a Plains Indian tribe of about 17,000 enrolled members, with headquarters just north of Lawton, in southwest Oklahoma. Powwows are important social events for many tribes, and typically feature traditional dance, songs, food, regalia, and other customs.
Sanders, a Vermont senator, won Oklahoma’s 2016 Democratic primary over Hillary Clinton. The state votes next year as part of the earlier and expanded ‘‘Super Tuesday,’’ which comes on March 3 and includes neighboring Texas.