- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brett McGurk appeared to have reassured Republican senators who questioned whether he has the diplomatic experience to serve as U.S. ambassador to Iraq - but then the emails surfaced.

Mr. McGurk traded several saucy messages with Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Cohn when she was covering Iraq and he was negotiating with Iraqi officials in 2008. At the time, Mr. McGurk was a national security adviser to former President George W. Bush.

The emails suggest a sexual relationship and hinted that Mr. McGurk offered to share information with Miss Cohn, although there is no evidence he did anything illegal. They later got married.

Many of the messages appeared to be flirtatious teasing, and Mr. McGurk expressed his sexual frustration in a couple of them. In one, he sent Miss Cohn a phone number for receiving text messages.

“It’s a better way to engage in sensitive deliberations like ours,” he said.

She called him “poor baby” in one message, and in others they joked about her hiding in his briefcase so she could record high-level meetings with Iraqi officials.

In another email, Miss Cohn referred to reporters as “vultures,” and he replied that she could be the “chosen vulture” if he treated her “to many glasses of wine.”

The emails had been lingering on the Internet for most of last week until reporters began to discover them, after Mr. McGurk appeared for a confirmation hearing Wednesday at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

After ABC News first reported on the emails Friday, the story has appeared as far from Washington as New Zealand, where the Herald newspaper wrote about the “flirty emails” Saturday.

One Senate staffer told a reporter that the emails shocked several senators who had been impressed by Mr. McGurk’s performance at the hearing.

Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, canceled a scheduled meeting with Mr. McGurk after the emails surfaced. His spokesman said the sexually charged messages raised “concerning issues.”

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the same committee, already had expressed doubts about Mr. McGurk’s ability to manage America’s largest and most expensive embassy. He also had criticized Mr. McGurk for failing to persuade Iraq to allow U.S. troops to stay past last year’s withdrawal.

The State Department on Friday defended Mr. McGurk as “uniquely qualified” to serve as ambassador. Mr. McGurk, a lawyer, has advised all five U.S. ambassadors to Iraq since 2003, when U.S. forces overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein.


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