John Rakolta Jr.
Michigan businessman, and a top contributor to the Trump presidential campaign, John Rakolta Jr. was confirmed on Tuesday, September 17, as the next ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Rakolta, who heads up Detroit-based Walbridge construction, has admitted he would be at a slight disadvantage compared to career foreign-service officers who have traditionally held the position. However, he said he brings “other experience” that would be beneficial. Rakolta was the top donor to Trump’s 2017 inauguration, and his family gave more than $275,000 to the president’s 2016 campaign. Rakolta also is related to RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who is Rakolta’s niece through his wife. While about 30 percent of ambassador appointments have been to non-career diplomats since the 1950s, more than 40 percent of Trump’s ambassador appointments have been to political supporters, rather than foreign service officers. Rakolta, who was confirmed by a 63 to 30 vote that included Michigan U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, will be the first non-career diplomat to serve as ambassador to the country. The ambassadorship is considered a key position in the region, with the UAE home to three U.S. military bases. Former diplomats have criticized the appointment, calling Rakolta unfit for the position due to a lack of foreign policy experience.