Trump Moves Ahead with Plan to Nominate Kenneth Braithwaite for Navy Secretary

Kenneth Braithwaite
Kenneth J. Braithwaite, U.S. ambassador to Norway, delivers remarks at a reception aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer Bainbridge (DDG 96), in Oslo, Norway, on June 25, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)

The president will nominate retired Rear Adm. Kenneth Braithwaite to lead the Navy and Marine Corps, the White House announced Friday -- about a month after reports emerged that the ambassador could have undisclosed ties to the scandal-tinged political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

President Donald Trump wants Braithwaite, current U.S. ambassador to Norway, to serve as his next Navy secretary. The job was vacated by Richard V. Spencer more than three months ago after a clash with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who claimed Spencer offered the White House a secret deal regarding the case of controversial Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.

Braithwaite, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who deployed to Iraq during the initial 2003 invasion, currently serves as the ambassador to Norway. CBS News reported last month that it had obtained documents suggesting Braithwaite might have had a contractual relationship with Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct British consulting firm that gathered personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent.

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Braithwaite denies the claims. He would have had to disclose paid and unpaid jobs he had outside the government for two years leading up to his Senate confirmation to serve as an ambassador. Braithwaite did not disclose any positions with Cambridge Analytica, according to CBS, and denies he worked with the firm.

The White House did not comment on the report at the time and made no mention of it in Friday's announcement to move ahead with the nomination.

Trump, in a November tweet, called Braithwaite "a man of great achievement and success."

"I know Ken will do an outstanding job!" he said.

Braithwaite will again face Senate confirmation to serve as Navy secretary.

The retired flag officer left the Navy in 2011. He served as a naval aviator, tracking Russian submarines while assigned to Patrol Squadron 17 and Patrol Wing 2.

In the late 1980s, Braithwaite made a career switch into public affairs, serving as the Navy Reserve's top spokesman and adviser to the service's chief of information. In that role, he deployed to Iraq during the initial 2003 invasion as commanding officer of Fleet Combat Camera Atlantic Reserve. Braithwaite also led a team in Pakistan after a deadly 2005 earthquake.

He later pursued a master's degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Braithwaite's nomination was one of several announced by the White House on Friday. Others include Kendel Ehrlich, former first lady of Maryland, to be director of the Department of Justice's office of Sex Offenders, Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking; and Senate Appropriations Committee staff member Christopher Hanson to be a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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