Jon Lerner to Serve as Deputy UN Ambassador
WASHINGTON – Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for UN Ambassador, has selected Jon Lerner to be her deputy, according to FITSNews, a South Carolina political website. The selection was first reported by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, citing several sources.
A veteran advisor to the South Carolina Governor, Lerner, who is Jewish, has worked with numerous GOP clients including Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC). Lerner is considered a staunch conservative. Former First Lady Jenny Sanford told McClatchy Newspapers in 2010, “He works for clients who he believes in and who reflect his own ideological principles. That provides him a sense of purpose and integrity and focus that is lacking in other consultants.”
Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, Lerner played a key role in the NeverTrump campaign, Politico reported in March. Working as a senior strategist for the Washington-based Club for Growth, the group started airing ads against Trump during the fall of 2014 in Iowa. Club for Growth intensified its efforts against the New York businessman spending millions on ads in key states of Florida and Illinois.
Married with three children, Lerner grew up in Minnesota before moving to Maryland and the Washington DC area. He received his J.D. from the University of Chicago while also working as a staffer on Capitol Hill for Senators Rudy Boschwitz (MN) and Al D’Amato (NY). In 2013, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tapped Lerner to help run a political advocacy group that lobbied for legislative reform on immigration and education.
“Jon is one of the most brilliant minds in politics, having guided candidates such as Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, and Marco Rubio,” Nick Muzin, a former senior advisor to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) told Jewish Insider. “He is also a tremendous mentsch, and a Kiddush Hashem. I can’t wait to see what he and Nikki will do at the UN.”
The Minnesota native considers longtime political consultant Arthur Finkelstein a mentor. Finkelstein is well known for playing a critical role in the merger of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman before the 2013 elections and also helped Netanyahu oust Shimon Peres as Prime Minister in 1996. Speaking with Haaretz in 2012, Lerner said, “I’ve worked with Arthur Finkelstein since the mid-1990s off and on and he’s terrific to work with. He’s very good. Very smart.”
Serving on multiple campaigns for former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Lerner built a close relationship with the politician, which was reportedly ruptured after Sanford’s public extra-marital affair with Argentinian journalist Maria Belen Chapu. Katon Dawson, who headed the state’s Republican party from 2002 to 2009, told McClathy Newspapers, “I would say the relationship will be strained forever. Jon Lerner worked very hard for Sanford, and it was a betrayal. I am sure he relayed that to the governor.”
When asked about the appointment, Sean Spicer, the incoming White House Press Secretary, told Jewish Insider, “There have been no announcements.”
Generally avoiding the media spotlight, Lerner’s view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other foreign policy issues are not widely known. While he will assume a senior role at the United Nations, Lerner does not appear to have any prior formal diplomatic experience. A political acquaintance of his told us that Lerner was often heavily involved in crafting foreign policy position papers for clients running for Congress.
Last week, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) introduced legislation that would cut off funding to the UN in protest of a recent resolution condemning Israel for settlement construction.