Brett McGurk nomination should be withdrawn, GOP lawmakers say

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Republicans are pressing the White House to dump its nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq, citing concerns about his abilities and judgment amid allegations that he acted inappropriately while working at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during President George W. Bush's second term.

Six GOP members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday calling on him to withdraw Brett McGurk's nomination.

In the letter, they say McGurk "lacks the leadership and management experience" needed for the job. The White House rejected the call, but it was not clear if the administration could win a protracted battle over the nomination.

The senators said their "strong concerns" about McGurk's qualifications were amplified by emails detailing what they called his "unprofessional conduct."

"Recent information has surfaced to call into question the prudence of moving forward with the nominee at this time," they said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney, however, said Obama was standing by McGurk.

"We believe that our nation will be greatly served by his experiences in Iraq and we look forward to the Senate's advice and consent on his appointment," he told reporters.

The emails in question indicate that McGurk had an intimate relationship with a Baghdad-based female American journalist while he was married to another woman and working at the embassy there in 2008.

McGurk has since married the reporter, Gina Chon, who resigned from the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday after acknowledging that she violated in-house rules by showing McGurk unpublished stories.

McGurk has not responded to requests for comment. "We believe the nominee lacks the leadership and management experience necessary to head America's largest embassy, in one of the world's most volatile regions," the senators' letter said.

It is signed by Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, James Risch of Idaho, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

McGurk was first assigned to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as a National Security Council staffer during the Bush administration and then led negotiations with Iraqi officials over an agreement that would govern security cooperation after U.S. troops left the country.

The senators complained that McGurk had also alienated some Iraqi politicians.