President Trump on Friday appointed former Never Trumper Elliott Abrams as the United States’ envoy to Venezuela.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the news at the State Department during a press conference.
“Today I am incredibly excited to announce that a seasoned, principled, and tough-minded foreign policy veteran is joining our State Department team. Elliott Abrams is coming aboard to lead our efforts on Venezuela,” he said.
Pompeo said Abrams would travel with him to the United Nations Security Council in New York on Friday, where the U.S. has called a meeting to urge other nations to support Venezuela’s democratic transition.
The appointment drew surprise in Washington, due to Abrams’ vocal opposition to Trump during the 2016 elections, and his reputation as a neoconservative.
But Pompeo said Abrams would be a “perfect fit.” He said:
Elliott’s passion for the rights and liberties of all peoples makes him a perfect fit and a valuable and timely addition. This week, the Venezuelan people have rejected former President Maduro’s illegitimate rule. Consistent with Venezuela’s constitution, and with the support of the Venezuelan people and the National Assembly, Juan Guaido has declared himself the interim president of Venezuela.
Abrams said in a brief statement that it was “very nice to be back.”
“I left this building 30 years ago this week, last time I worked here. So it’s very nice to be back. This crisis in Venezuela is deep and difficult and dangerous, and I can’t wait to get to work on it. Thank you,” he said.
Abrams served under President Ronald Reagan as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs and assistant secretary for inter-American affairs.
Under President George W. Bush, he served on the National Security Council as the senior director for democracy, human rights, and international affairs; the senior director for North African and Near East affairs; and the deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy.
Abrams was reportedly considered for deputy secretary of state until Trump learned that he had criticized him during the campaign.
On May 6, 2016, Abrams wrote a column in the now-defunct Weekly Standard entitled, “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate.”
“Republicans who oppose Trump need to keep making the arguments that candidates like Rubio and Cruz and Bush made this year unsuccessfully,” he wrote.
“It didn’t work this time but it can work next time, when voters see Trump collapse—and when they see an increasingly dangerous world and a Clinton administration wedded to a bloated federal government as the solution to every problem,” he added.
“Next time, in 2020, we’ll have had 12 years of Obama and Clinton, Hillary will be in her mid-seventies, Trump will be gone, and a new generation of Republican leaders like Rubio and Cruz and Ryan and Cotton and Haley and Sasse will still be in their forties.”