May 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden ready to name Eric Garcetti ambassador to India

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is seen speaking in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden is ready to nominate Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as his ambassador to India, sending a trusted political ally to the world's biggest democracy, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Driving the news: Biden is planning to name his first slate of political ambassadors as soon as next week, rewarding political allies like Garcetti, as well as big-dollar donors, many of whom covet postings in elegant European capitals.

  • The White House is still finishing the vetting process for potential ambassadors, including Garcetti, whose office called an Axios report earlier this month that he was being considered for an ambassadorship "speculative."
  • When the vetting process is complete, Biden is expected to formally send more than a dozen names to the Senate to begin the confirmation process for his first batch of political ambassadors.
  • Garcetti, who served as the co-chair of Biden's presidential campaign, was initially considered for the Cabinet. However, his chances diminished after a sexual harassment lawsuit against one of his former aides, Rick Jacobs, received national attention after journalist Yashar Ali reported about his own experience with Jacobs.
  • A Garcetti spokesperson, as well as the White House, declined to comment.

Between the lines: Biden has already called some applicants to offer them the country where he wants them to serve.

  • Those one-on-one calls speak to the premium Biden places on personal relationships in his diplomatic worldview. They're also a reminder that ambassadors are directly answerable to the president.
  • “The ambassador doesn’t work for the State Department,” said former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who also served as U.S. ambassador to China. “He or she works for the president of the United States.”

The intrigue: Some donors are privately complaining that the White House’s entire ambassador process has been too protracted and too opaque, as they grouse and gossip about who might receive what.

  • Other donors have been informed that they are unlikely to serve in Biden’s first term and have, at least, the certainty of rejection.
  • The president began reviewing names of potential ambassadors in March, and officials are putting a premium on diversity in assembling the first batch that he'll send to the Senate.

What we are hearing: Tom Nides, a former deputy secretary of State, is in line for Israel, as Axios first reported.

  • Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator and Interior secretary, is preparing to go to Mexico.
  • Mark Gittenstein, an international lawyer who was President Obama's first ambassador to Romania, will end up in Brussels as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
  • Julie Smith, a former Biden deputy national security adviser, will likely serve as ambassador to NATO.
  • Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is expected to be the ambassador to the World Food Program in Rome.
  • Former Chicago mayor and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will be heading to Japan.
  • Nick Burns, a career diplomat, is Biden's likely choice for China.
  • Denise Bauer, a prominent fundraiser and former Obama ambassador to Belgium, is scheduled for France.
  • Michael Adler, another big-dollar donor, is slated for Belgium, as first reported by the Washington Post and confirmed by Axios.
  • David Cohen, a former lobbyist for Comcast who's now chairman of the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, should be heading north to Canada.

What we are watching: Will Jeff Flake, a former Republican senator who endorsed Biden, be offered a prominent G20 country or an important multilateral position?

  • Also, there's a big focus on who gets the United Kingdom (formally, the ambassador of the United States of America to the Court of St. James's).

Fun facts: The U.K. ambassador's residence, Winfield House, is a neo-Georgian mansion abutting Regent's Park.

  • It has a lawn big enough to land a helicopter and is the second-largest private garden in the city.
  • The first is at Buckingham Palace.
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