Obama Nominee for Ambassador to Iraq Withdraws over Sexual Emails: Who is Brett McGurk?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Brett McGurk has withdrawn from becoming the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq following the disclosure of racy emails he wrote in 2008, while he was married, to a reporter he later married.
Half a dozen Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was scheduled to vote on McGurk’s nomination this week, refused to support him after the emails surfaced. Some Democrats also were reluctant to support McGurk, prompting him to pull out.
The communications were sent to Gina Chon, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, whom McGurk was dating in 2008 while both were in Iraq. They got married this spring.
In sending copies of the emails to Chon, McGurk says they refer to “my first message to you through our Chinese dinner to the blue ball banter and then coming over to hook up with you for the first time (on June 23 – a night the world should celebrate.”
Chon also suffered as a result of the disclosure, which showed she had shared some unpublished articles with McGurk. She resigned from the newspaper.
President Barack Obama had announced his intent to nominate McGurk, who has been involved in Iraq policy almost continuously since 2004, on March 26, 2012,.
Born April 20, 1973, Brett McGurk is the son of Barry McGurk, an English professor, and Carol Ann Capobianco, an art teacher. Raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, McGurk earned his B.A. in Political Science at the nearby University of Connecticut in 1996 and a JD from Columbia University in 1999.
After law school, McGurk chose to commence his career by pursuing the “judicial clerk” track. He served as a clerk for Judge Gerard Lynch of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) in 1999-2000, for Judge Dennis Jacobs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (also Manhattan) in 2000-2001, and for Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist from 2001 to 2002. Admitted to the bar in 2000, McGurk practiced appellate litigation at the large law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in 2003.
Returning to government service, from 2004 to 2005 McGurk served as a legal advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, focusing on issues of constitutional reform, elections, and government formation. He then served on the National Security Council staff from 2005 to 2009, first as director for Iraq and then as special assistant to the president and senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007 and 2008 he was the lead negotiator of the Security and Strategic Framework Agreements with Iraq.
Asked to stay on as a special advisor to President Obama, he also served as a senior advisor to Ambassadors Ryan Crocker, Christopher Hill and James Jeffrey in Baghdad. He has also been an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a resident fellow for the fall 2009 semester at Harvard University, where he lectured on the role of the U.S. Supreme Court and the National Security Council since September 11, 2001.
Some in the diplomatic community questioned the nomination. At age 39, McGurk would have been the youngest chief of mission ever appointed to run the embassy in Iraq, which is the largest embassy in the world. Despite senior advisorships to Ambassadors Crocker, Hill and Jeffrey, McGurk has never managed an embassy, especially one with thousands of staff. “Is the Senior Foreign Service so thin that they can’t find anyone from the career service for this job?” asked Domani Spero, the pseudonymous blogger who publishes the highly regarded Diplopundit blog. Other commentators noted that McGurk’s relationships with Iraqi leaders could have helped bolster U.S. influence in the country. Opposition parties in Iraq expressed concern that McGurk was too closely aligned to the nation’s current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
-Matt Bewig, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Obama’s Iraq Envoy Nominee Steps Aside (by Peter Baker, New York Times)


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