President Joe Biden plans to nominate former Obama-era chief of staff and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Japan, the White House confirmed in a statement on Aug. 20.
In announcing the nomination, White House officials lauded Emanuel’s many years of public service, including serving as former President Bill Clinton’s assistant for political affairs and senior adviser for policy and strategy.
Rumors had long swirled about Emanuel’s nomination for the post, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressing the matter back in May.
“I know there’s a lot of interest in this,” Psaki told reporters at a press briefing at the time, responding to a question about Emanuel’s potential candidacy for the ambassadorship position and what expectations the administration has for someone serving in that function.
Calling Japan an “important partner in the region, [an] important partner in addressing stability and security in the region,” Psaki said the individual serving as the U.S. ambassador to Japan would be “someone who would play an integral role.”
In an Aug. 20 statement, Emanuel said he’s honored by the nomination.
“The alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific, and I would proudly represent our nation with one of our most critical global allies in one of the most critical geopolitical regions,” Emanuel said in the statement.
While the former Chicago mayor could face a difficult confirmation battle in the Senate, several key Democrats offered on Aug. 20 their backing for his nomination.
“In nominating Rahm Emanuel to serve as U.S. Ambassador, President Biden has chosen a leader of immense experience and effectiveness to represent our nation in Tokyo,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “His great experience, from the U.S. House to the White House, will serve our nation well, as he works to deepen one of our nation’s most important alliances, champion American interests abroad, and advance regional security and prosperity.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) echoed that sentiment.
“Rahm Emanuel has a lifetime of public service preparing him to speak for America. Japan is an important strategic partner in Asia, particularly in light of our continued challenges from China. I will do all I can to help Rahm become America’s voice in Japan,” Durbin said in a statement.
There hasn’t been a Senate-confirmed U.S. ambassador to Japan since William Hagerty left the post in July 2019, with Raymond Greene, former deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan, currently serving in an interim capacity.