WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to nominate Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts as secretary of state, a senior administration official said, succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton and putting in place the first member of his second-term national security team.
The appointment of Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and his party’s former presidential nominee in 2004, has been widely expected since last week, when Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, asked Mr. Obama to withdraw her candidacy for the post.
Ms. Rice had come under weeks of attack from Republicans in Congress over her role in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya. Mr. Kerry, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, oversaw a hearing on Benghazi on Thursday, at which the State Department came under renewed criticism for its failure to respond to requests for additional security in Libya.
The decision by Mr. Obama, expected to be announced early Friday afternoon, comes at a time when Mrs. Clinton has been recovering from a concussion suffered earlier this month. Mrs. Clinton, who has long said she would leave the post after Mr. Obama’s first term, is not expected to attend the announcement.
An elder of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment, Mr. Kerry, 69, has long coveted the job of secretary of state. He built close ties to Mr. Obama, giving him the keynote speech assignment that helped begin his national political career at the Democratic convention in 2004 and becoming an early Senate supporter of Mr. Obama’s presidential run.
Mr. Kerry has carried out several diplomatic missions for the Obama administration, helping to persuade President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to agree to a runoff election in 2009. Early in the administration, he also tried to engage President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has waged a brutal crackdown on his own people as he fights to cling to power.
President Obama does not intend to name a new secretary of defense or director of the Central Intelligence Agency on Friday, an official said.
One of the front-runners for the Pentagon post, former Senator Chuck Hagel, is fighting off a series of criticisms of his record, not unlike the campaign that dogged Ms. Rice. The White House has defended Mr. Hagel, though officials said on Thursday that Mr. Obama had not yet decided whom to nominate for that post.
The contest for C.I.A. has come down to two names: Michael J. Morrell, the current acting director, and John O. Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism adviser.
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