White House chief of staff ex­pected to de­part

The Philippine Star - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump inched closer to his long-teased ma­jor White House shake-up Fri­day, gear­ing up for the twin chal­lenges of bat­tling for re-elec­tion and deal­ing with the Democrats’ in­ves­ti­ga­tions once they take con­trol of the House.

The big­gest piece of the shift­ing pic­ture: chief of staff John Kelly’s de­par­ture now ap­pears cer­tain.

Trump an­nounced he was pick­ing a new US at­tor­ney gen­eral and a new am­bas­sador to the UN, and at the same time two se­nior aides de­parted the White House to beef up his 2020 cam­paign.

But the largest changes were still to come. Kelly’s re­place­ment in the com­ing weeks is ex­pected to have a rip­ple ef­fect through­out the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to nearly a dozen cur­rent and for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and out­side con­fi­dants, Trump is nearly ready to re­place Kelly and has even be­gun telling peo­ple to con­tact the man long viewed as his likely suc­ces­sor.

Give Nick a call,” Trump has in­structed peo­ple, re­fer­ring to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ay­ers, ac­cord­ing to one per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions.

Like all of those in­ter­viewed, the per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss sen­si­tive per­son­nel mat­ters.

Trump has hardly been shy about his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the team he had cho­sen and has been weigh­ing all sorts of changes over the past sev­eral months. He de­layed some of the big­gest shifts un­til af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tions at the urg­ing of aides who wor­ried that adding to his al­ready-record turnover just be­fore the vot­ing would harm his party’s elec­toral chances.

Now, nearly a month af­ter those midterms, in which his party sur­ren­dered con­trol of the House to Democrats but ex­panded its slim ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, Trump is start­ing to make moves.

He an­nounced Fri­day that he’ll nom­i­nate Wil­liam Barr, who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, to the same role in his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

If con­firmed, Barr will fill the slot va­cated by Jeff Ses­sions, who was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously jet­ti­soned by Trump last month over lin­ger­ing re­sent­ment for re­cus­ing him­self from over­see­ing spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ses­sions was ex­iled less than 24 hours af­ter polls closed. But Trump’s broader ef­forts to re­shape his in­ner cir­cle have been on hold, lead­ing to a sense of nearparal­y­sis in the build­ing, with peo­ple un­sure of what to do.

Trump also an­nounced that State Depart­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert is his pick to re­place Nikki Ha­ley as the next US am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, and he said he’d have an­other an­nounce­ment about the mil­i­tary’s top brass.

All this came the same day that Trump’s re-elec­tion cam­paign an­nounced that two vet­er­ans of the pres­i­dent’s 2016 cam­paign, White House po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, the di­rec­tor of the of­fice of pub­lic li­ai­son, were leav­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to work on Trump’s re-elec­tion cam­paign.

“Now is the best op­por­tu­nity to be laser-fo­cused on fur­ther build­ing out the po­lit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture that will sup­port vic­tory for Pres­i­dent Trump and the GOP in 2020,” cam­paign man­ager Brad Parscale said in a state­ment.

The moves had long been planned, and will give Kelly’s even­tual suc­ces­sor room to build a new White House po­lit­i­cal team.

Kelly was not at the White House on Fri­day, but was ex­pected to at­tend an East Room din­ner with the pres­i­dent and se­nior staff.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Wash­ing­ton af­ter a trip to Kansas City, Mis­souri amid re­ports that chief of staff John Kelly (in­set) will be re­placed. AFP

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