Pompeo names Morgan Ortagus as State Department spokeswoman
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named former Fox News contributor Morgan Ortagus, a previous critic of President Donald Trump, as the new State Department spokesperson Wednesday.
“I am pleased to welcome Morgan Ortagus as our new State Department Spokesperson,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Morgan brings outstanding credentials and a record of public service to the position. She has worked her entire career in financial services, consulting, and diplomacy. “
Ortagus, a Navy reserve officer, was the anticipated pick for the job and has extensive foreign policy experience. But in 2016, she slammed then-candidate Trump for an “isolationist foreign policy approach” and lambasted his mockery of the physically and mentally disabled as “disgusting,” a CNN review found.
With Wednesday’s announcement, it appears Ortagus is ready to join the Trump administration after turning down several opportunities to do so in the past, according to a source familiar.
Her allies in the administration include several members of the Trump family, including senior adviser and daughter of the President Ivanka Trump, who Ortagus praised in an op-ed last week for her work on The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also pushed for her hiring.
And while she would replace another Fox News alum in former spokesperson Heather Nauert, allies emphasize that her foreign policy and communications experience significantly outweighs that of her predecessor.
The 36-year-old first entered public service in 2007 as a spokesperson with the US Agency for International Development under President George W. Bush and spent several months working on public diplomacy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Ortagus then went on to work as an intelligence analyst for the Treasury Department during the Obama administration and was assigned to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2010 as the deputy US Treasury attache to Saudi Arabia. While there, she focused on working with the Saudi Arabian government to curb illicit financial flows to and from the Kingdom.
“She spent over a year in Saudi Arabia as the deputy Treasury attache and has a lot of expertise in the Middle East, on countering terrorism finance and intelligence,” said Samantha Vinograd, a CNN national security analyst, who is also close friend and business partner of Ortagus and worked with her during the Obama administration.
Vinograd added that she will “bring a lot of national security and foreign policy experience, both from service at home and abroad,”
While there will likely be a learning curve when it comes to understanding how the State Department operates, those close to Ortagus say she understands the nuance of national security and foreign policy, which should allow for a smooth transition.
If she is confronted about her previous criticism by the President, Ortagus will likely frame the comments she made in 2016 as part of a heated primary race, two sources familiar with her thinking said, noting that she has considered the possibility of having to address the issue with Trump directly.
“I think the President would be hard pressed to find someone who is qualified, can pass vetting, and who hasn’t criticized him while he tries to fill senior roles,” Vinograd said.