GOP Senator Defends Rahm Emanuel, Says He Will ‘Advocate For America’s Interests’

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Republican Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty introduced former Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his Wednesday confirmation hearing to Japan’s ambassadorship, arguing that Emanuel will “advocate for America’s interest.”

Hagerty, who served as ambassador from 2017-2019, described Emanuel as “a qualified and capable nominee” for the position in his opening remarks. The support is a boon to the confirmation chances of Emanuel, who has come under fire from left-wing Democrats for his handling of the 2014 death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of Chicago police officers.

Citing encroachment from Russia, China, and North Korea, Hagerty emphasized the “threat to our national security if this post were to remain empty any longer.”

“During my tenure, tensions were remarkably high with North Korea launching multiple ballistic missiles over Japan, and communist China threatening the position in the East China Sea. The Japanese people and the world needed to hear directly from the U.S. ambassador when those threats occurred,” he said.

“Today we have a great threat from communist China towards our mutual friend, Taiwan. This requires a strong and unified response from both the U.S. And Japan. Mayor Emanuel understands this critical circumstance,” Hagerty continued.

President Joe Biden announced Emanuel’s nomination for the ambassador position on Aug. 20. A long-time Democratic Party operative, he served three terms in the House of Representatives and as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. (RELATED: REPORT: Biden To Announce High-Profile Ambassadorships For Friends, Donors, Past Staff)

However, Emanuel’s nomination sparked an outcry among some Democrats due to his alleged mishandling of McDonald’s shooting death. The Chicago Police Department released footage of McDonald’s death 13 months after the shooting, and after Emanuel was re-elected as mayor. Although police officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder, Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez alleged that Emanuel “helped cover up the murder,” and called the situation “flatly disqualifying.”

Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley pressed Emanuel about the shooting during the confirmation hearing.

However, Hagerty told Fox News’ Chad Pergram, left-wing members have “a disagreement over Mayor Emanuel, over how he’s handled domestic, domestic issues.”

However, he continued, “that’s not the issue here. The issue has to do with our foreign policy. It has to do with a strong America.”