Kelly Ayotte to Guide Trump SCOTUS Nominee through Senate

The former New Hampshire senator was critical of Trump during re-election campaign

Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who tried to distance herself from Donald Trump during the campaign, will be responsible for introducing his Supreme Court nominee to senators. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who tried to distance herself from Donald Trump during the campaign, will be responsible for introducing his Supreme Court nominee to senators. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted January 31, 2017 at 7:40pm

Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is returning to Washington to help President Donald Trump’s White House.

The moderate Republican, who lost a close re-election last fall after revoking her support for Trump as the GOP presidential nominee, will head a team charged with shepherding Trump’s Supreme Court nominee through the Senate.

The news, first reported by the Washington Post Tuesday night, was confirmed to Roll Call by a source familiar with the situation. 

It’s a surprising pick from Trump, who criticized Ayotte before her September primary.  He suggested she was “weak” and said she’d given him “zero support.”

The Granite State senator was one of the first GOP elected officials to say that she would support, but not endorse, Trump when he became the GOP presidential nominee and often refrained from mentioning him by name.

Just a month before the election, Ayotte stumbled over a question from a moderator in an October debate, saying she would point to Trump as a role model for children. Several hours later, she was forced to issue a statement saying she “misspoke.”

And after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tapes in which Trump bragged about grabbing women, Ayotte said she’d write in Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence for president instead of Trump. She said she wouldn’t want her daughter alone in a room with Trump.

In her new role, Ayotte will introduce the Supreme Court nominee, to be announced by Trump Tuesday night, to senators and accompany him to confirmation hearings.

GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, a consultant to the Trump transition team, will be in charge of the communications strategy for moving Trump’s nominee through the Senate.