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President Joe Biden nominates former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey

Jeff Flake, who served 18 years representing Arizona in the U.S. Congress, has been nominated by President Joe Biden to be the next senior diplomat to the Republic of Turkey

SHARE President Joe Biden nominates former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey
Former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake has been nominated to be the next American ambassador to Turkey.

Former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake talks about what he is doing a year after he stepped down from the Senate and how he plans to remain a voice for conservatism during an interview in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden nominated Flake to be the next American ambassador to Turkey.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican, has been nominated by President Joe Biden to be the next American ambassador to Turkey, the White House announced Tuesday.

“Given the strategic importance of the United States’ relationship with our long-time NATO Ally, the Republic of Turkey, I am honored and humbled by the trust President Biden has placed in me with this ambassadorial nomination,” Flake wrote in a Medium post Tuesday afternoon. “Cheryl and I are grateful for the opportunity to serve, and eager to get to know the extraordinary people of Turkey.”

Flake’s nod for “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” by the Biden administration was part of a list of 10 other “key nominations” released by the White House Tuesday. The 58-year-old Arizona Republican, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will need to be confirmed by a majority in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate.

In June, Biden nominated Cindy McCain — the wife of late, former Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain — to an ambassador-level role as the United States’ representative to United Nations Agency for Food and Agriculture.

By late Tuesday afternoon, senators on both sides of the political aisle had praised Flake as a friend and statesman.

Flake endorsed Biden in 2020

Many expected Flake to play a role in Biden’s administration, according to the Arizona Republic. Earlier this year, reports indicated that the Biden administration was eyeing prominent Republicans like Flake and McCain to ambassadorships, Axios reported.

Flake has long spoken out against former President Donald Trump. In an exclusive 2019 interview with the Deseret News, in which the Deseret News described Flake as “the face of the Republican resistance,” Flake said the Republican Party would be “doomed long-term” with a Trump reelection.

He endorsed Biden for president just hours before last year’s Republican National Convention, the Deseret News reported. 

Flake also detailed in an essay for Deseret Magazine earlier this year his belief that a “divided government is almost always the best government.”

“With divided government, no one party is under the illusion that it can impose its will at the expense of the other,” he wrote. “The parties are forced to work together.”

In a statement shared on Medium, Flake wrote that his nomination within the Biden administration underscores that idea — specifically his belief that U.S. foreign policy should be a bipartisan effort.

Flake’s background in foreign affairs

The former Arizona senator spent 18 years representing the Grand Canyon State in the U.S. Congress. Flake spent six terms in the U.S. House, from 2001 to 2013, before serving a single six-year term in the Senate.

During his tenure in both chambers of Congress, Flake served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and later the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he chaired the Africa Subcommittee.

According to the nominees’ official webpage, Flake received international relations and political science degrees from Brigham Young University. Flake also served a Latter-day Saint mission in Africa, according to The Federalist Society.

Twitter reacts

Flake’s nomination received praise across political parties on Tuesday, with Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema, a Democrat, commending Flake’s skills of “compromise, collaboration and and cooperation,” and Utah Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney referring to Flake as a “friend.”

  • “Jeff Flake served Arizona with distinction in both chambers of Congress, where he sought compromise, collaboration and cooperation,” Sinema wrote on Twitter. “Those skills will serve him and America well as he represents our nation in a part of the world critical to America’s security interests.”

  • “Jeff and Cheryl Flake are dear friends and honorable people,” Lee wrote. “They will represent the United States well in this critical role in an important time. President Biden shows wisdom in choosing them.”

  • “A thoughtful and accomplished public servant who will represent the U.S. and our interests well in a complex region of the world. I agree that foreign policy can be an area of bipartisanship and I look forward to meeting with my friend during his confirmation process,” Romney wrote.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. Susan Collins also shared their support for Flake’s nomination, with Klobuchar stating that Flake “is very well suited to serve our nation in this critical role.”