U.S. President Donald Trump will appoint Dina Powell, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, as his deputy national security adviser for strategy, according to White House officials.
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Powell is already a senior economic adviser to the Trump administration, but in recent weeks she has been involved in discussions concerning national security as well.
Powell was born in Cairo, Egypt, and immigrated to the United States with her family as a child. She is fluent in Arabic, and under the Bush administration she served as the State Department's assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, a role in which she often represented the administration in front of the Arab world and worked to improve Washington's standing in Arab public opinion.
In the Bush administration, Powell drew praise from the president – who appointed her before the age of 30 to be his personnel director in the White House. She also drew praise from then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has called her "one of the most capable people I know," adding, "she did crucial work for me at the State Department where we were trying to be more effective in outreach to the Muslim world."
After leaving the State Department, Powell went to work for Goldman Sachs. According to a report in Politico, however, she maintained close ties to officials in the White House during the Obama era, including President Barack Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Her work as the head of the international bank's international charity and philanthropy arm, the Goldman Sachs Foundation, has won praise from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
After Trump's election victory, Powell emerged as a close adviser to the new president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, assisting her in getting acquainted with the political mechanisms in Washington. Powell and Ivanka Trump were spotted together last month at the Georgetown Four Seasons hotel, moving around a room full of political dignitaries, shaking hands and exchanging niceties with members of Congress, former Obama administration officials and influential lobbyists.
Powell's appointment as one of Trump's top economic advisers back in January drew rare bipartisan praise, and the president's latest decision to increase Powell's responsibilities to the field of national security will likely lead to a similar reaction in Washington.
Powell participated earlier this week in the president's meeting with a senior Saudi delegation, led by the Arab kingdom's deputy crown prince. A photograph published by the White House showed her to be the only woman taking part in the discussion. In her new role in the National Security Council, Powell is expected to remain deeply involved in shaping policy toward Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.
It remains to be seen what Powell's appointment will mean for the current deputy national security adviser, former Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland, who was appointed by Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and has been rumored to be on her way out of the White House ever since Flynn's resignation last month. According to The New York Times, McFarland will continue on serving as another deputy national security adviser.
Powell's past experience in outreach to the Arab world is more in line with the approach of the man who replaced Flynn, General H.R. McMaster, who as a field commander in Iraq, encouraged his soldiers to study Arabic, read about Islam and be fair in their treatment of the local population.