Susan Rice will become the president’s new national security adviser, following Tom Donilon’s resignation. President Obama appointed her Wednesday afternoon and she will take over the position in July.
Rice will leave her post as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to take the position. The president nominated Samantha Power to succeed her in New York.
President Obama thanked Donilon for his decades of public service and celebrated Rice’s past achievements, calling her a “consummate public servant who puts her country first,” who he played basketball with on occasion, laughing that she likes to “throw in the occasional elbow.”
“Susan exemplifies the finest tradition of American diplomacy and leadership,” Obama said.
Obama also lauded Rice’s replacement, Power, for her work fighting genocide, joking that she’d “won the Pulitzer at 15, maybe 16.” Power won the general nonfiction Pulitzer Prize in 2003, when she was 32. She has served as an aide at the National Security Council and chaired the president’s Atrocities Prevention Board.
“This has been an open secret for months, the idea that when Susan Rice was passed over or however you want to describe it for secretary of state, it was clear she was headed to Washington and it was just a question of when Donilon was going to leave,” NBC News White House Correspondent Chuck Todd said on Wednesday’s Morning Joe when the news of Rice’s expected appointment broke.
Rice became a target for partisan attacks after she appeared on Sunday talk shows last year to give the administration’s early accounts of the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which later proved to be incorrect. After the uproar, she removed herself from the shortlist for the secretary of state position when the erupting storm of criticism from Republicans showed no sign of abating. Former Sen. John Kerry was later confirmed to the position, succeeding Hillary Clinton.
Many also pushed for Rice’s resignation, but Todd said she never fell out of favor with the president. The Senate does not need to approve her appointment for this position.
“It was always still thought of, if not [secretary of state], then she would be brought into the West Wing and arguably she is going to be more influential,” he added.
In Rice’s remarks accepting the position, she thanked the president, saying she was “deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me.”
Predictably, Republicans aren’t pleased with the appointment.
Power, however, has already gained the support of Sen. John McCain, a top critic of Rice. The Republican senator from Arizona called Power “well-qualified for this important position,” in a statement Wednesday, and urged the Senate to “move forward on her nomination as soon as possible.”