Joe Biden Planning for Rahm Emanuel to Serve as Japan Ambassador, Likely Upsetting Progressives

President Joe Biden is planning to choose former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan, a source told the Associated Press on Tuesday, a move that likely would upset progressives within the Democratic Party.

The source was not authorized to speak on the matter and said the White House is expected to nominate Emanuel later this month. Progressive Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has criticized Emanuel for how he handled the death of Black teenager Laquan McDonald, who was shot by a white police officer while Emanuel was Chicago's mayor.

The White House did not comment on whether Emanuel would be nominated or not and said a formal announcement will reveal Japan's U.S. ambassador. Biden previously emphasized U.S. commitment to Japan amid security threats from China and said the countries' alliances will "prove that democracies can still commit and win" and "deliver for our people."

If Emanuel is chosen and confirmed by the Senate, he could become Japan's ambassador before the Tokyo Summer Olympics are slated to begin on July 23. Biden had considered Emanuel as transportation secretary but did not select him after garnering opposition from liberal activists and some Democrats in the liberal wing of the party.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

 Rahm Emanuel
Former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel visits WSJ at Large with Gerry Baker at Fox Business Network studios on August 1, 2019, in New York City. An anonymous source told the Associated Press that Emanuel is expected to be nominated as U.S. ambassador to Japan. Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Emanuel is a former three-term congressman who served as President Barack Obama's first White House chief of staff and was a senior adviser in President Bill Clinton's administration.

In selecting Emanuel to serve as his chief envoy to Japan, Biden will reward an informal adviser to his campaign and a significant force in Democratic Party politics for much of the last three decades with one of the highest-profile ambassadorial roles.

He also would head to Japan at a moment when Biden wants to increase focus on the Indo-Pacific and strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship.

The Financial Times was first to report Biden's pick of Emanuel.

Biden last month hosted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House, the first in-person foreign leader visit of his presidency, and is set to host South Korea President Moon Jae-in on May 21.

The administration has made strengthening relations with partners in the region a priority as Biden increases focus on China. Biden has repeatedly cited China as the greatest economic competitor to the U.S. and admonished Beijing for human rights violations and unfair trade practices.

In a news conference during his White House visit, Suga made repeated references to the "severe security environment" in East Asia, where China under Xi Jinping is exerting its economic and military strength, including with military deployments meant to assert its disputed territorial claims in the region.

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
President Joe Biden is expected to nominate former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as ambassador to Japan, according to a person familiar with the president's decision. Above, then-Chicago Mayor Emanuel speaks during a news conference in Chicago on January 15, 2017. Matt Marton/AP Photo