President Barack Obama formally named U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser on Wednesday in the move that would reshape his national security team.
A White House official confirmed to reporters the personnel changes on Wednesday before an announcement by Barack Obama later.
Susan Rice, who got caught up in political controversy over the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack, will replace Tom Donilon who will free his post next month following this weekend’s meetings between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
President Obma also announced that Samantha Power of the National Security Council will replace Rice at the United Nations, reports CNN.
The president’s decision to appoint Rice as the head of his national security team raised some controversy as Republicans who are requiring further details on what they believe was “a politically motivated effort by the administration to downplay the Benghazi attack” last year.
“Obviously I disagree [with Obama’s] appointment of Susan Rice as Nat’l Security Adviser, but I’ll make every effort to work [with] her on [important] issues,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, one of Rice’s foremost critics on Benghazi, wrote on Twitter.
However, he approved president’s decision to pick up Samantha Power to replace Rice: “I support President Obama’s nomination of Samantha Power to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,” McCain said in a separate statement.
“I believe she is well-qualified for this important position and hope the Senate will move forward on her nomination as soon as possible.”
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican with designs on seeking his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, was sharply more critical.
“I can’t imagine that we would be keeping Ambassador Rice in any significant position, much less promoting her to an important position,” the politian told reporters.
While Obama didn’t speak of the political side of the appointment, he praised Rice for being “fearless, tough” and a great patriot who champions justice and human dignity.
“I’m absolutely thrilled she’ll be back at my side, leading my national security team for my second term,” Obama said with a smiling Rice at his side.
Rice, in her turn, replied: “I’m deeply honored and humbled to serve our country as your national security adviser.”
She went on, adding that she was “deeply grateful for [his] enduring confidence,” a seeming nod toward the whirlwind of controversy around her role in the Benghazi explanation, which helped scuttle her chances of becoming secretary of State.
To columnist John Avlon said that Obama’s choice of Rice and Power showed the freedom he felt his victory of the second term.
“Susan Rice is not on the Republicans’ Christmas card list, but this appointment, which doesn’t need Senate confirmation, is being read as a slap in the face,” Avlon said.
“President Obama says he doesn’t much care. He is rewarding Susan Rice for her loyalty to his administration and moving her into the White House. She can have more influence now than she ever did on White House policy.”
He called it a “fascinating, decisive move” by a president “who is apparently liberated by a second term, who is not worried about burning bridges with Republicans and Congress who are already his critics.”