Arthur Culvahouse
US Ambassador to Australia Arthur B Culvahouse. Image credit: Andrew Zinn/AP

After nearly two years, Donald Trump has finally settled on an actual appointment for Washington’s ambassador to Canberra. The good news is, it’s no Mel Sembler, but a senior Washington lawyer with national security experience. here’s some detail on him:

Arthur Boggess “AB” Culvahouse Jr

Background: Born in Tennessee, July 4, 1948, graduated New York University School Of Law 1973, lifelong Republican. Married to Pamela; one son (deceased), three daughters.

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He’s a career DC lawyer: Chair Emeritus and Of Counsel, O’Melveny & Myers law firm. He joined the firm in 1976, and was chair from 2000-12. The firm has over 700 lawyers in seven countries including multiple offices in China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan. He was Counsel to Ronald Reagan, 1987-89.

He’s a veteran vetter: Culvahouse has long been a go-to man for the GOP’s vetting needs. He vetted Anthony Kennedy for the Supreme Court and Alan Greenspan for the Federal Reserve for Reagan. An early supporter of John McCain in 2008, he was asked to vet McCain’s vice-presidential picks, and selected Sarah McCain from a long list after McCain asked for a female name. Also vetted picks for the Trump campaign, including Mike Pence, in a more truncated process in 2016.

So… Sarah Palin?: Not on his wall of achievements. Asked for advice about her by McCain, he described her as “high risk, high reward”.

He has significant national security experience: After Reagan, he worked for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Counterintelligence Advisory Panel and was appointed to the Board of Visitors of the US Naval Academy and, with the Cold War ending, was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee on Nuclear Failsafe and Risk Reduction. George W. Bush appointed him to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Intelligence Oversight Board in 2006. Also appointed to the Nuclear Command and Control System Federal Advisory Committee in the last days of Dubya.

Trivia: Had a bit part in Watergate while working for mentor Howard Baker in the lead-up to the Saturday Night Massacre. Continues the tradition of Republican political appointees to Canberra, after Robert McCallum (another Tennessee-born lawyer), Tom Schieffer and Mel Sembler. Clinton and Obama appointed State Department diplomats, except for Jeff Bleich, a friend of Obama’s who held the position from 2009-13.

Deep Throat: Worked on the famous Church Committee for Baker. Told an oral history project: “Howard was always interested in Deep Throat and who Deep Throat was. There was a theory at the time that maybe someone at the Central Intelligence Agency was Deep Throat, someone who had access to the Watergate tapes and the CIA’s knowledge of Watergate. So we looked into that at the same time the committee looked at assassinations and those sorts of things. It was a real exposure to that world, what was done well and what was done less well. My view at the time was that there wasn’t a lot of accountability at the Agency…”

So, what do you make of this new Trump appointment? Write to

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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