Trump taps Nauert as UN envoy, Barr as new attorney general
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Friday nominated State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert as his next ambassador to the United Nations - a swift elevation for a supporter who had no diplomatic experience until last year. Nauert, who has shown poise in front of the cameras and mostly avoided gaffes, would succeed Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor seen as entertaining ambitions for higher political office.
Trump said he was impressed by the 48-year-old Nauert, a former anchor of “Fox and Friends”, one of the television-loving president’s favorite shows. “She’s very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she’s going to be respected by all,” Trump told reporters. Nauert said on Twitter she was “humbled” by Trump’s confidence in her and looked forward “to continuing the outstanding job Amb. Haley has done representing your administration and the American people.”
Nauert, who had been rumored as the top pick for the job since Haley’s resignation, become the spokeswoman of the State Department after Trump’s election despite no previous background in foreign affairs. Representative Eliot Engel, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “uneasy” about Nauert’s lack of experience, as the UN job “requires face-to-face negotiations with important allies and hardened adversaries”. But the Senate, which alone needs to confirm Nauert, is still under the control of Trump’s Republican Party.
It is widely expected that the position will lose its current cabinet status, meaning she would be clearly subordinate to Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, her current boss. Pompeo said on Twitter that he had “great confidence” in Nauert and called for her quick confirmation. Praise for the appointment came from Israel, which has long counted on the United States to veto unfriendly resolutions on the UN Security Council. Haley, in what could be a final diplomatic push, on Thursday failed in a bid for the UN General Assembly to condemn the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas for firing rockets at Israel.
Trump also on Friday tapped William Barr, a conservative lawyer who was attorney general in the administration of the late George HW Bush, to lead the US Department of Justice. Barr would succeed Jeff Sessions, who Trump sacked last month amid rising pressure on the White House from the Russia collusion investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. “Bill Barr will be nominated for the United States Attorney General position. I think he will serve with great distinction,” Trump told reporters. “He was my first choice from day one. Respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats,” he added, describing Barr as “a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man”.
Barr had emerged in recent days as a consensus candidate for the highly sensitive post. He does however have a record of endorsing strong executive powers, which could play into high-stakes legal battles on everything from immigration policy to war powers to whether the president can be required to give testimony in the Russia investigation. He expressed support in May 2017 when Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey, which has led Mueller to investigate whether Trump obstructed justice, and last year backed Trump’s calls to reopen investigations into his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton.