U.S. President Donald Trump has nixed Elliott Abrams for the No. 2 position at the State Department after learning that the Republican foreign policy veteran had criticized him during the 2016 election campaign, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Trump decided not to nominate Abrams, who had been the leading candidate for deputy secretary of state, after meeting him at the White House on Tuesday along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, two sources told Reuters.
Abrams, 69, who served in foreign policy roles for presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, was Tillerson’s pick for the job, and the administration’s newly installed top diplomat tried and failed to convince the president to reconsider and offer him the job, one of the sources said.
Trump’s resistance to hiring his former Republican critics has slowed his ability to fill positions in his administration, especially in the foreign policy and national security areas.
The leaves former diplomat Paula Dobriansky as a potential choice for the position. She has been on Trump’s short list, an official said.
While Abrams did not sign either of two highly publicized letters from members of the Republican foreign policy establishment during the campaign pledging not to back Trump, he did criticize him both in his writings and media interviews during the presidential primaries.
Abrams, 69, a neoconservative who has long advocated an activist U.S. role in the world, last served in government in the Bush White House, first as a Middle East expert on the National Security Council and later as a global democracy strategy adviser.
He was assistant secretary of state during the Reagan administration and was convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.