“This afternoon in the Rose Garden, the President will announce that after more than 4 years at the National Security Council, Tom Donilon will be departing as National Security Advisor in early July and will be succeeded by Ambassador Susan Rice,” the official said in an email to reporters. ” The President will also announce that he will nominate Samantha Power to succeed Ambassador Rice as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.”
Obama had considered Rice last year to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State — but went with John Kerry instead after Republicans made it clear they would block Rice due to the controversy over the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist strike in Benghazi, Libya. GOP lawmakers accused Rice of misleading Americans about the attack on the first Sunday news programs after the deadly raid. But documents released earlier this year show Rice was working from talking points crafted by the intelligence community and shaped by an inter-agency process overseen by the White House in which she appears to have had little to no input.
The appointment — which does not require Senate confirmation — comes with Obama days away from sitting down for the first time with Chinese President Xi Jinping and facing international crises including the civil war in Syria and the increasingly tense standoff over Iran’s suspect nuclear program.
Rice and Power — who left the National Security Council earlier this year and is best known as a human rights advocate and champion of U.S. intervention to prevent genocide — are both close to the president. Their picks confirm a pattern of Obama picking close aides or longtime allies, not outsiders, for key posts in his second term.
Power’s nomination requires Senate confirmation. Republicans are sure to seize the opportunity to pick apart Obama’s foreign policy.
In addition to Kerry as secretary of state, Obama tapped Republican former senator Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary. Both criticized the Iraq war and are not known as eager interventionists. As national security adviser, Rice would be in charge of adjudicating disputes among the various agencies as well as helping the president chart a course on world affairs.
Donilon is considered the architect of Obama’s so-called “pivot” to Asia, an effort to recalibrate American foreign policy with a fresh focus on that region — and notably on a rising China.
News of the shake-up was first reported by the New York Times.