World

McFarland's confirmation as US Ambassador to Singapore on hold

The confirmation of Ms Kathleen Troia McFarland as US Ambassador to Singapore may be in limbo.

The nomination confirmation was stalled after Ms McFarland appeared to contradict her statements about her knowledge of any communications between Russia's then Ambassador in Washington Sergey Kislyak and Michael Flynn, a key Trump campaigner later appointed national security adviser in the administration.

She had told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in written comments for her confirmation hearing in September she "was not aware" of communications between the two.

But The New York Times reported on Monday it had obtained an e-mail Ms McFarland sent on Dec 29 last year, the day the Obama administration authorised new sanctions against Russia, saying Flynn would talk to Mr Kislyak that evening.

Flynn pleaded guilty last Friday to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with Russia and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into the actions of US President Donald Trump's inner circle before he took office.

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN: "I think there should be no action on this nomination until we get the information."

Ms McFarland's appointment was due to go to a vote in the full Senate. It is unclear what will happen to her nomination now.

Reuters said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have to take procedural steps in order to overcome the hold and confirm her nomination.

"It looks like a fraught nomination," said Mr Ernie Bower, chief executive of consultancy BowerGroupAsia.

This may leave the US without an ambassador in Singapore for the foreseeable future.

Mr Bower said: "It is hard not to have an ambassador in the country chairing Asean."

Nor has the US nominated an ambassador to Asean, he noted.

Ms McFarland served as Deputy National Security Advisor to Flynn before he was fired in February, after it was revealed that he had misled Vice-President Mike Pence over the nature of his contacts with Mr Kislyak.

She is widely seen as having Mr Trump's ear.

WORLD