President Donald Trump said Woody Johnson was "going to St. James" way back in January
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently lamented the pace of the ambassador picking process
The White House officially nominated New York Jets’ owner Robert “Woody” Johnson as ambassador to the United Kingdom Friday, more than five months after President Donald Trump first named him as his pick for the role.
Johnson, who was a top fundraiser for Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, will now have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Trump first announced his intention to tap Johnson on the eve of his inauguration, telling supporters at a luncheon that Johnson was “going to St. James,” an apparent reference to the fact the US ambassador to the UK is formally known as the ambassador to the “Court of St James’s”.
But months passed before the official announcement came through.
While the White House has so-far declined to comment on the reasons behind the delay in Johnson’s nomination process, the formal vetting and disclosure process is known to be time consuming, especially for candidates with extensive financial holdings.
In a congressional hearing last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lamented the pace of the nominating process, saying the “paperwork burden” on potential nominees is a major cause.
“I know from my own experience,” he said. “I had to hire eight individuals to help me get mine done so I could get it done as quickly as I did.”
So far, the Trump administration has formally nominated 15 individuals to serve as ambassadors to foreign capitals, including two were initially nominated in the closing weeks of the Obama administration and re-nominated by Trump’s White House.
Of these, 11 have been political appointees – influential figures or top Republican fundraisers – while four have been career foreign service officers.
In his testimony last week, Tillerson estimated that the administration had chosen nominees for about half of the approximately 70 open ambassadorial positions, and evaluations are underway for the rest.
Former President Barack Obama had nominated 34 country-based ambassadors by this date in his first term, while President George W. Bush had nominated sixteen. While both former president’s favored political nominees in those early months, they had a higher proportion of career nominees than Trump currently has for his ambassadorial picks.