President Donald Trump has nominated a veteran Washington lawyer as his first ambassador to Mexico, a delicate role in representing a US leader set on building a wall between the countries.
Christopher Landau, who had been rumoured for a job since he start of the Trump administration, served as a clerk to two conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices before becoming a prominent lawyer focused on appeals.
He has no diplomatic experience but studied Latin America at Harvard and speaks Spanish. His father, George Landau, was a longtime US policymaker in Latin America who served as ambassador to Chile, Paraguay and Venezuela.
Trump announced Landau, who requires confirmation by the Senate, in a statement released late on Monday.
Numerous key diplomatic posts remain empty more than two years into Trump’s tenure. The US has been without an ambassador in Mexico City since May, when Roberta Jacobson, who was named by Barack Obama, resigned. She had initially decided to stay on after Trump’s election to ensure continuity but complained of chaotic decision-making.
In an interview with National Public Radio after she quit, Jacobson called Trump’s hard line on immigration “un-American” and warned it could reduce US standing in the region.
Trump rose to power on a staunchly anti-immigration platform, calling some Mexican immigrants rapists and making his signature issue the construction of a wall on the border which he told campaign rallies that Mexico would fund.
Trump triggered a shutdown of the government and issued his first veto to seek the building of the wall, with his administration tacitly acknowledging that Mexico will not pay for it.
Mexico’s new leftist president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has taken a low-key approach with Trump despite their strong ideological differences. He has agreed to keep migrants fleeing troubled Central America inside Mexico as they apply for asylum in the US, a break with standard practice as he seeks to avoid public spats with Trump.