Democrats challenge Trump's UN nominee over climate change

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Three Democratic senators are calling on President's Donald Trump's nominee for U.N. ambassador to clarify that she will put U.S. interests ahead of her own financial interests when it comes to climate change.

The Democrats say Kelly Craft, who was nominated as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. last week, has invested more than $60 million in oil companies and other fossil fuel interests. Her husband, Joe Craft, is CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest U.S. coal producers.

As U.N. ambassador, Craft would represent the United States on climate change, one of the U.N's top global priorities.

Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island urged Craft in a letter to provide "assurances" that she will avoid any conflicts of interest.

The senators also asked Craft to clarify whether she thinks human-caused climate change is real, citing comments she made in 2017 that "both sides of the science" had merit in the climate debate.

"Why have you said that there are 'both sides' to the scientific debate in climate change?" the senators asked Friday in a four-page letter to Craft. "Please describe in detail your understanding of the 'sides' and their positions on climate change, including the evidence and the sources of this information."

Markey and Merkley serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will consider Craft's nomination to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Craft currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Canada.

She and her husband are prominent Republican donors, and Joe Craft donated $1 million to Trump's 2017 inauguration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

Craft, a Kentucky native, was backed for the U.N. post by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, are longtime family friends of the Crafts.

McConnell praised Kelly Craft as "an exceptional choice for this critical post" and said her "long record of service to her state and the nation" will enable to "serve with distinction as America's voice to the world at the United Nations."

As U.S. ambassador to Canada, Craft played a role in facilitating the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has criticized.

Craft has been ambassador to Canada during a low point in relations between the two counties. Last year, Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weak and dishonest, words that shocked Canadians.

A spokeswoman for the foreign relations panel said a hearing on Craft's nomination has not been scheduled.

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