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Trump picks Hoekstra for Dutch ambassador

By Todd Spangler/Detroit Free Press (TNS) • Jul 25, 2017 at 8:22 PM

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday evening nominated former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland to be his ambassador to the Netherlands.

Hoekstra was born in the Netherlands and moved with his family to Michigan as a young child.

First elected to Congress in 1992, Hoekstra served 18 years, rising to become chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He left in early 2011, having mounted an unsuccessful bid for governor. In 2012, he failed in a bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

During the 2016 campaign, Hoekstra became a key surrogate for Trump and his outsider bid to become president, appearing on cable TV in support of him and introducing him at a large rally at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater in Sterling Heights the weekend before the election last November.

Trump went onto eke out a win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, becoming the first Republican presidential nominee to win Michigan since 1988.

In announcing Hoekstra's nomination, which still must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the White House praised him as "a prominent politician" and said he "continues to be active on public policy issues and in business affairs as a consultant, researcher and writer."

Hoekstra has been linked to controversies in the past: As he was running for the Republican nomination to face Stabenow in 2012 — which he won — his campaign ran a TV ad that was widely criticized for employing Asian stereotypes as he tried to link Democratic policies with aiding China.

Some years before, when he chaired the House Intelligence Committee, questions were raised in media reports as to whether he made public classified information related to the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, though a spokesman at the time said Hoekstra had received no confidential briefings about the incident.

Michigan members of Congress immediately praised Trump's selection of Hoekstra, who as a member of the Michigan delegation for nearly two decades was well-liked and respected.

“The administration made a wise decision by picking Pete, with his long-established Dutch roots and heritage," said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph. "He is exceptionally qualified and will make a tremendous ambassador. Pete’s always had a passion for public service and a way of connecting with people that will continue the fruitful relationship we’ve long-enjoyed with the Netherlands.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who replaced Hoekstra in Congress, called him a "mentor" and said his "heritage, deep-rooted ties to the Dutch community in West Michigan and combination of public service and private sector experience make him uniquely qualified to serve as ambassador to the Netherlands."

Once confirmed, Hoekstra will join a list of prominent Michiganders taking jobs with or closely linked to the Trump administration, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican National Committee Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson also grew up in Detroit.

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