Biden donor in line for keys to ambassador’s luxury mansion

US Embassy London

The search for a candidate to move into the American ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park appeared to be over last night as President Biden’s choice became clear.

Diplomatic sources said the White House was planning to nominate Jane Hartley, 71, a Biden campaign donor and former ambassador to France during the Obama administration.

Jane Hartley
Jane Hartley

Her nomination would bring to an end a months-long search for the right person to take up what has long been considered one of America’s most coveted ambassadorial jobs after other, more prominent, candidates were passed over or turned it down.

In the past few decades, the position, which comes with the second largest private garden in London after Buckingham Palace, has been handed as a thank-you to campaign donors.

Biden considered breaking with that tradition to ensure a smoother confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate. He is understood to have weighed up several prominent figures including Cindy McCain, the widow of John McCain, who ran for president in 2008; Colin Powell, the former secretary of state; and Mike Bloomberg, the media tycoon and former mayor of New York.

Powell and Bloomberg are former Republicans who might have expected an easier confirmation in the Senate than a Democrat. Powell, however, broke with the Republican party after the Capitol was stormed by Trump loyalists in January, while Bloomberg briefly entered the 2020 presidential race as a Democratic hopeful. McCain is in line for a post to the World Food Programme in Rome.

At least three senior television executives from HBO, Comcast and Disney, who were also campaign donors, are said to have expressed interest in the job. Biden had also considered appointing the first person of colour to the post.

The choice of Hartley came as a surprise to many in Washington, as she is neither a close friend of Biden’s nor in his top tier of campaign fundraisers. She is, however, remembered for her loyalty, sticking by Biden in the difficult early weeks of his campaign when others did not.

Hartley will be the second woman to serve as ambassador to London after Anne Armstrong in the 1970s. Her appointment will mark the return of yet another Obama alumnus to the Biden administration. She served as ambassador to Paris for three years until Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

She started her career working for the Democratic National Convention before working in the Department of Housing and the Carter White House. She left public service for broadcasting before serving as chief executive to two strategic consulting firms, the G7 Group and the Observatory Group.

Many believed the nomination was some way off after the State Department announced this week it was sending a placeholder to London to cover when the present chargй d’affaires, Yael Lempert, finishes her post. Philip Reeker, head of the Bureau for Eurasian and European Affairs in Washington, will take up an interim post pending the ambassador’s confirmation.

Lempert made headlines last month when The Times revealed she had delivered a demarche, or formal reprimand to Downing Street, over its handling of the Northern Ireland protocol and the threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

Some questioned whether Hartley was the right choice to stabilise the relationship. “For the US-UK special relationship this is not the person who I would have expected even if we were going to send a political appointee,” said Brett Bruen, a former diplomat who served in the Obama White House. “You want someone with greater stature, someone who can go up to Capitol Hill and to rally support for the UK. So, if I was working in Downing Street, I would be sorely disappointed.”

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