U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft was away from her post in Ottawa for more than 300 days, according to Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez questioned Craft Wednesday during her confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, saying the number of days away was “extraordinary.”
“During your one-and-a-half years as Ambassador you spent an excessive amount of time absent from Ottawa, leaving your duties to deputies,” he said. “I find this staggering amount of time away from post very troubling and an abdication of leadership.”
Craft is a well-known Kentucky sports fan, philanthropist and powerful donor to the Republican party, whose husband, Joe Craft, is a billionaire coal magnate. She has served as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada since October 2017, and her time in Ottawa is her primary credential for serving as the lead envoy to the UN.
The ambassador was questioned over her incomplete travel records relating to time away from her post.
Politico recently obtained her flight records and cross-referenced them with her social media posts and appearances in the U.S. during her time in office. Politico reported that a private jet used by the ambassador made 128 flights between the U.S. and Canada over her 15-month tenure in Ottawa — roughly a round trip once a week.
Menendez noted that from March 21 through May 13 Craft was absent from her post 45 out of 54 days.
“The bottom line is, without the full record, we can’t evaluate it,” he said.
The ambassador defended her absences saying she never travelled without approval from the State Department, and her travel was mainly related to the USMCA negotiations, which often meant flights to Washington, D.C. Craft also pledged to provide her full travel records.
“Being in Washington was my number one priority,” she said. “This was not a time to socialize this was a time to work.”
A Democratic aide who spoke with Global News on condition of anonymity said the issue raised questions about her commitment to the job and how often Craft took leave from her job for personal business.
“She’s citing the fact she was part of the negotiating for the new NAFTA, but in fact, the records show that in the eight months since the negotiations ended she actually spent an average of 20 days outside of Canada,” the aide said. “It’s not someone I think people want in New York on behalf of the U.S.”
Global News reached out to the U.S. State Department and U.S. Embassy for comment but have not yet received a response.
Republicans on the committee defended Craft over her time away from Ottawa, noting that some her trips were to northern States and parts of Canada over USMCA matters.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said she had personally paid for all her trips and saved U.S. taxpayers money even when she was travelling on official business.
President Trump’s nominee to be United Nations ambassador also broke with the White House over climate change and promised to take the issue seriously if confirmed.
“Climate change needs to be addressed, as it poses real risks to our planet,” she said in her opening remarks. “Human behaviour has contributed to the changing climate. Let there be no doubt: I take this matter seriously, and if confirmed, I will be an advocate for all countries to do their part in addressing climate change.”
Craft’s comments were notable because of her family’s close ties to the coal industry and are at odds with Trump’s comment that global warming is “a hoax” perpetrated by China. It also marked a departure from previous statements where she said she believed “both sides” of the science on climate change.
Craft’s nomination is expected to be approved by the committee and confirmed by the Senate, both controlled by Republicans, barring any unexpected revelations.