Trump names new nominees for attorney generaland UN envoy
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday picked an establishment Republican with a polished legal career to lead the Justice Department and a political loyalist and brash media personality to represent the U.S. at the United Nations, underlining the political tensions in a White House scrambling for a reset.
Trump said he will nominate William “Bill” Barr to serve as attorney general, putting the white-shoe lawyer back atop the Justice Department that he led under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s.
If confirmed, Barr would take over supervision of the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling that has shadowed Trump’s tenure. Barr has criticized the probe, suggesting that it is partisan in nature because some of the prosecutors under Robert S. Mueller III, a Republican, had contributed to Democrats.
Trump also said he will nominate Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor who has been State Department spokeswoman since April 2017, as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. The president will downgrade the position to a subCabinet post, according to a White House official, reversing Trump’s previous upgrade of the job.
The choices marked the start of an expected series of high-level staff changes as Trump seeks to recover from last month’s bruising midterm elections, which saw heavy Republican losses in the House and in states, and prepares for his 2020 re-election race.
Among those reportedly on the exit ramp is John F. Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff. The president privately indicated this week that he will pick Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, to replace the retired Marine four-star general.
Trump also is expected to name Gen. Mark A. Milley, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran with combat commands, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who will complete his term next fall. Trump indicated that he would make the announcement at the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia on Saturday.
If confirmed, Barr, 68, would replace Jeff Sessions, who was ousted as attorney general a day after the Nov. 6 election, and Matthew Whitaker, who has been acting attorney general since then.
Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under Bush, who died last Friday, and emerged as a consensus choice among Trump’s advisers because of his experience and likely chances of winning Senate confirmation.
“He was my first choice since Day One,” Trump told reporters Friday before he left for a speech in Kansas City, Mo. He indicated he was pleased with the response after Barr’s name was floated in news stories. “I’ve seen very good things about him, even over the last day or so when people thought that it might be Bill Barr,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., who is the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and thus would oversee Barr’s confirmation hearing, led a chorus of Republicans on Capitol Hill who praised Trump’s pick.