Ed McMullen, a supporter and political strategist of US president Donald Trump, appeared before a Senate hearing on Thursday, explaining why its members should approve his nomination as ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
McMullen, who runs an advertising and corporate public affairs firm in South Carolina, reportedly helped steer Trump’s victory in the Republican primary in the state.
“If you can survive politics in South Carolina, you can handle Switzerland,” joked South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in front of the Senate hearing.
For his part, McMullen reminded the Senate that Switzerland was the seventh-largest direct investor in the US. “This for a country the size of Maryland and a population of eight million people tells us a lot about Switzerland – not least that the Swiss have found a great formula for success,” he said.
After helping Trump in the primaries, McMullen was a member of the president’s transition team and vice-chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The fact that McMullen has got the president’s ear could be crucial advantage for Switzerland, according to a report on Swiss Public Television, RTS.
“When [McMullen] speaks, President Trump will listen,” Graham told RTS. “That tells you how much he values the relationship with Switzerland.”
If McMullen is rubber-stamped as ambassador, he will have to use his skills as a communicator to try to explain Trump’s policies to Switzerland. So far this has failed, according to Democrat Chris Murphy from Connecticut, who was on the Senate commission questioning potential diplomats.
“The president’s foreign policy is a disaster and his commitment to Europe is a big question mark,” Murphy said. “These ambassadors all seem like very good people, but they’re going to have a very big job.”
Since the departure of Obama appointee Suzi LeVine in January, the US embassy in Bern has been headed by chargé d’affaires Tara Ferat Erath.
Historically, Senate confirmation of presidential nominees for foreign ambassadorships can be fraught with bureaucratic hoops and paperwork, and the timeline of the process can vary widely.
But approval of Trump’s picks has taken even longer than average: in June, Time magazine reported that the president’s average was 85 days, compared with 32 and 11 days for former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively.