Trump pick K.T. McFarland withdraws nomination as envoy to Singapore

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - K.T. McFarland, picked by President Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to Singapore, withdrew from consideration for the job on Friday after her nomination became stalled in the U.S. Senate.

McFarland was on Trump’s presidential transition team and later appointed deputy national security adviser under Michael Flynn.

Trump nominated McFarland last May to be the U.S. envoy to Singapore. When the U.S. Senate did not act on the nomination by the end of 2017 the White House resubmitted her nomination in early January.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in December that McFarland's nomination had been delayed due to concerns about her testimony to Congress over communications with Russia.

McFarland had said in a written response to a question from Democratic Senator Cory Booker, a foreign relations committee member, that she was "not aware" of communications between Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, when Kislyak was ambassador to Russia.

However, the New York Times reported early in December that it had obtained an email McFarland sent on Dec. 29, 2016, the day former President Barack Obama's administration authorized new sanctions against Russia, saying Flynn would talk to Kislyak that evening.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with Russia, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into the actions of Trump’s inner circle before he took office.

On Friday, McFarland, a former Fox News national security analyst, said in a letter to Trump, "I am asking that you withdraw my nomination to be the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore."

"I have come to this decision reluctantly, because I believe in your mission," she wrote. A copy of the letter was seen by Reuters.

Trump said in a statement, "K.T. served my administration with distinction. Unfortunately, some Democrats chose to play politics rather than move forward with a qualified nominee for a critically important post," he said.

McFarland wrote that she believed Trump had "laid the foundations for a new foreign policy that puts America’s interests ahead of, but not at the expense of, our obligations to others."

"Know that I have no intention of withdrawing from the national debate and I want to help you in whatever way I can."

(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Leslie Adler, Toni Reinhold)