McGurk Withdraws Candidacy for U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

Brett McGurk has withdrawn his candidacy to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq, the Obama administration said.

McGurk’s nomination by President Barack Obama had been challenged by six Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who cited the release of documents they said showed “unprofessional conduct” and “poor judgment.” E-mails that became public after McGurk was nominated concerned his relationship with a Wall Street Journal reporter in Iraq in 2008, during President George W. Bush’s administration

“While we regret to see Brett withdraw his candidacy, there is no doubt that he will be called on again to serve the country,” Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said today in an e-mailed statement.

The Wall Street Journal said last week that the reporter, Gina Chon, resigned because she violated its code of conduct by “sharing certain unpublished news articles” with McGurk when he was based in Iraq with the U.S. National Security Council. The action followed what the newspaper has called “the emergence of romantic e-mails” between the couple, who are now married.

Chon said in a message to friends that “while I worked in Iraq for the paper, Brett never gave me classified information, nor did he trade his knowledge for my affection,” the Washington Post reported June 16. Chon said her e-mail exchanges with McGurk were no more than “flirtatious banter” and that the e-mails were leaked by a “disgruntled” State Department employee.

‘Serve Ably’

White House spokesman Jay Carney said as recently as last week that Obama “supports his nomination. He put him forward. He has a great deal of experience in Iraq not just in this administration but in the prior administration, and thinks he will serve ably as ambassador.”

Carney declined at the time to comment on the release of the e-mails and whether they reflected a lack of professionalism, referring questions to the State Department. “I can tell you that the president put forward this nominee because he is qualified for the job and will serve ably when he’s confirmed,” Carney said.

The White House declined to release McGurk’s letter of resignation.

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