Trump picks new at­tor­ney gen­eral and U.N. en­voy

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page - By Eli Stokols

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.

Mr. Trump said he would 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.

Mr. 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 sub-Cab­i­net post, ac­cord­ing to a White House of­fi­cial, re­vers­ing Mr.

Trump’s pre­vi­ous up­grade of the job.

If con­firmed, Mr. Barr would take over su­per­vi­sion of the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, which has shad­owed Mr. Trump’s ten­ure.

Mr. Barr has crit­i­cized the in­quiry, echo­ing some of Mr. Trump’s com­plaints. He has sug­gested, for ex­am­ple, that it is par­ti­san in na­ture be­cause some of the pros­e­cu­tors un­der spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, a Repub­li­can, had con­trib­uted to Democrats’ cam­paigns.

At the same time, how­ever, some who worked with Mr. Barr said they were re­lieved by the choice, not­ing that he had deep ties to fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors and law en­force­ment, in­clud­ing Mr. Mueller, who headed the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Crim­i­nal Divi­sion in Mr. Barr’s pre­vi­ous stint as at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“He is very much an in­sti­tu­tion­al­ist,” said Joe Whit­ley, who served with Mr. Barr in the top ranks of the Jus­tice Depart­ment. “He eats, sleeps, breathes the ether of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. He is a per­son of great in­tegrity. I can’t see him do­ing any­thing other than by the book.”

For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired, also praised Mr. Barr.

“I like and re­spect Bill Barr. I know he’s an in­sti­tu­tion­al­ist who cares deeply about the in­tegrity of the Jus­tice Depart­ment,” Mr. Comey told re­porters Fri­day.

The choice of Mr. Barr and Ms. Nauert marked the start of an ex­pected se­ries of high-level staff changes as Mr. Trump seeks to re­cover from last month’s bruis­ing midterm elec­tion, which saw heavy Repub­li­can losses in the House and in state elec­tions, and pre­pares for his 2020 re-elec­tion race.

Among those re­port­edly on the exit ramp is John F. Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff. The pres­i­dent pri­vately in­di­cated this week that he plans to pick Nick Ay­ers, chief of staff to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, to re­place the re­tired Ma­rine four-star gen­eral.

If con­firmed, Mr. 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.

Mr. Barr served as at­tor­ney gen­eral from 1991 to 1993 un­der Mr. Bush, who died last Fri­day. He emerged as a con­sen­sus choice among Mr. Trump’s ad­vis­ers be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence and likely chances of win­ning Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

“He was my first choice since day one,” Mr. Trump told re­porters Fri­day be­fore he left for a speech in Kansas City, Mo. He in­di­cated he was pleased with the re­sponse af­ter Mr. 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, R-S.C., who, as the in­com­ing chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, would over­see Mr. Barr’s con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, led a cho­rus of Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill who praised Mr. Trump’s pick.

Call­ing it “an out­stand­ing de­ci­sion,” Mr. Gra­ham vowed to do “ev­ery­thing in my power” to help Mr. Barr through his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings and then win ap­proval in the full Se­nate, a process that could take sev­eral months.

Mr. Barr “is a known quan­tity, a man of the high­est in­tegrity and char­ac­ter, and has an im­pec­ca­ble rep­u­ta­tion,” Mr. Gra­ham said.

Wil­liam Barr

Heather Nauert

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