President Trump is “misleading the American people” about the failure of former aide K.T. McFarland’s nomination to be ambassador to Singapore, according to a top Senate Democrat.
“The president’s statement about the withdrawal of K.T. McFarland’s nomination to be Ambassador to Singapore is yet another example of President Trump misleading the American people about the U.S. Senate and our responsibility for vetting and processing administration nominees,” Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said late Friday.
Trump accused Senate Democrats of obstructing McFarland’s nomination after she withdrew her bid for the diplomatic post. Cardin rejected that blame, maintaining that McFarland controlled her own destiny but failed to address concerns that she had misled lawmakers about her involvement in the Russia controversy that led to the firing of then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
“It became distressingly evident in December of last year that Ms. McFarland provided the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with misleading and incomplete information regarding the Trump transition team and administration’s dealings with Russia,’ Cardin said. “The Committee was fully prepared for Ms. McFarland to clarify the record. She chose not to do so.”
McFarland cleared the panel in September, but she never received a vote in the full Senate, even though Republicans have the ability to confirm nominees by a simple-majority vote. Her nomination faltered after emails showed that she had coordinated with Flynn at the time when he discussed U.S. sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, who was then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. McFarland was Flynn’s deputy at the time, but she told Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., that she had been unaware of Flynn’s discussions. Her team attributed the error to the fact that she didn’t have access to her calendars and emails, presumably due to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and so gave the best answer she could from memory.
One of McFarland’s advisers conceded that her answer was poor, but also condemned Booker and the media for taking the response out of context, according to the New Yorker, and a friend of McFarland said she couldn't be more detailed in her answers to questions during her testimony in more detail because of constraints placed on her by her lawyers.
McFarland was a favorite of the president’s, however, and Trump accused Democrats of scuttling her nomination.
“I am disappointed that K.T. McFarland has withdrawn from consideration to be Ambassador to Singapore,” Trump said in a Friday afternoon press statement. “K.T. served my Administration with distinction. Unfortunately, some Democrats chose to play politics rather than move forward with a qualified nominee for a critically important post.”
Cardin dismissed those criticisms. “I look forward to the president nominating an individual for this important position who is qualified and who will be fully forthcoming with the Committee,” he said.