Trump names choices for at­tor­ney gen­eral, U.N.

Chief of staff Kelly may go soon; Army’s Mil­ley could lead Joint Chiefs

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - NATION & WORLD - BY JOSH DAWSEY AND JOSH WAG­NER

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day ac­cel­er­ated a long-an­tic­i­pated shakeup of his Cab­i­net in the wake of the midterm elec­tions, nam­ing new picks for at­tor­ney gen­eral and U.N. am­bas­sador amid wide­spread spec­u­la­tion that em­bat­tled White House chief of staff John Kelly could soon de­part.

Trump con­firmed his choices of Wil­liam Barr to lead the Jus­tice Depart­ment and Heather Nauert for the United Na­tions post as he left the White House, speak­ing to re­porters over the din of the whirring blades of Ma­rine One.

If con­firmed by the Se­nate, Barr will take over for the act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, Matthew Whi­taker, whom Trump in­stalled in place of the ousted Jeff Ses­sions less than 24 hours after the polls closed on Nov. 6 in the first move of an ex­pected over­haul of Cab­i­net sec­re­taries and se­nior White House aides.

CNN re­ported Fri­day morn­ing that Kelly could be step­ping down in a mat­ter of days, but Trump did not pause long enough to take ques­tions from re­porters, though he teased he would make an­other big per­son­nel an­nounce­ment Satur­day at the Army-Navy col­lege foot­ball game in Philadel­phia.

“I can give you a lit­tle hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and suc­ces­sion,” Trump said.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported later Fri­day that in­di­vid­u­als fa­mil­iar with White House plans said Trump is ex­pected to choose Gen. Mark Mil­ley, the head of the Army, to be­come the next chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If his nom­i­na­tion is ap­proved, Mil­ley would re­place the cur­rent chair­man, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., who is due to step down next fall.

Kelly was not at work Fri­day morn­ing, though an ally said he was sim­ply tak­ing a day off and would be at the White House for a hol­i­day staff din­ner Fri­day night. The lights were off in his West Wing of­fice.

He has not been asked to re­sign, this per­son said, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity to speak can­didly about a per­son­nel mat­ter.

Among White House of­fi­cials, how­ever, there is broad con­sen­sus that his days as chief of staff are num­bered.

One se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said Fri­day that it’s clear Kelly will be leav­ing, though it’s not cer­tain that the de­par­ture was im­mi­nent as CNN re­ported. The of­fi­cial spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss a sen­si­tive mat­ter.

Trump has en­gaged in talks with Nick Ay­ers, the vice pres­i­dent’s chief of staff, about tak­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in­ten­si­fies op­po­si­tion ahead of meet­ing on in­ter­na­tional agree­ment. over the po­si­tion, ad­vis­ers said. The pres­i­dent of­ten re­marks on what he calls Kelly’s lack of po­lit­i­cal skills and has told ad­vis­ers in re­cent days that he needs a more po­lit­i­cal chief of staff for his re­elec­tion. Ay­ers, a sharp-el­bowed and am­bi­tious Ge­or­gia op­er­a­tive, fits the bill, ad­vis­ers said.

But the sto­ry­line of Kelly’s de­par­ture has been pro­tracted for so many months that White House aides of­ten now just shrug. “Sure, Trump says he wants him gone, and Kelly swears and leaves and says he’s not com­ing back. But then he comes back,” said one for­mer

se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to of­fer a can­did assess­ment.

Kelly, a re­tired fourstar Ma­rine gen­eral, has been the pres­i­dent’s top aide since late July 2017. Trump has chafed at Kelly’s man­age­ment style and re­sisted some of his moves to in­still dis­ci­pline in the West Wing and con­tain chaos. In re­cent months, the chief of staff’s power has ebbed, with ad­min­is­tra­tion poli­cies and de­ci­sions be­ing guided more by the pres­i­dent’s gut in­stincts than by Kelly’s pro­cesses.

Wash­ing­ton has been abuzz with ru­mors about Kelly’s job sta­tus at var­i­ous mo­ments dur­ing his 16-month ten­ure. But this past sum­mer, Kelly sought to quiet spec­u­la­tion that he was near­ing the exit be­cause of ten­sions with Trump by telling se­nior staff that he in­tended to re­main as chief of staff through Trump’s 2020 re­elec­tion cam­paign.

Trump and Kelly have pri­vately ar­gued at times and com­plained about each other to con­fi­dants, some­times in col­or­ful lan­guage. But the two men are gen­er­a­tional peers and have a mea­sure of re­spect for each other, and they have bonded over their shared ide­ol­ogy, es­pe­cially on im­mi­gra­tion is­sues, and their mu­tual griev­ances to­ward the me­dia and po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment.

Trump had noth­ing but praise for the two new Cab­i­net mem­bers whom he an­nounced Fri­day he would nom­i­nate.

He told re­porters that Barr, who led the Jus­tice Depart­ment un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, was “my first choice since day one” and said he is “a ter­rific man, a ter­rific per­son, a bril­liant man.”

Nauert, 48, joined the State Depart­ment last year with no gov­ern­ment ex­pe­ri­ence after a ca­reer as an an­chor and cor­re­spon­dent at Fox News.

“She’s very tal­ented, very smart, very quick, and I think she’s go­ing to be re­spected by all,” Trump said.

Both the at­tor­ney gen­eral and U.N. am­bas­sador po­si­tions re­quire Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion. Aides on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions and Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees — which would take up the am­bas­sador and at­tor­ney gen­eral nom­i­na­tions, re­spec­tively — said Fri­day that nei­ther com­mit­tee will hold con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings this year, given the lim­ited time left be­fore a new Se­nate takes over on Jan. 3.

Barr is likely to face tough ques­tions at his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing about how he will han­dle the on­go­ing spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia to in­flu­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Within the Jus­tice Depart­ment, the se­lec­tion of Barr was re­ceived with a de­gree of re­lief, as he is viewed as some­one who has long­stand­ing ties to the build­ing and knows how its var­i­ous of­fices op­er­ate, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials.

Barr, 68, served as at­tor­ney gen­eral from 1991 to 1993 un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush and be­fore that as deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral, the No. 2 of­fi­cial.

On an­other mat­ter, Trump, never known for tak­ing crit­i­cism ly­ing down, re­sponded to un­kind words from his for­mer sec­re­tary of state, Rex Tiller­son, on Fri­day by call­ing Tiller­son “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.”

Dur­ing a pub­lic ap­pear­ance in Hous­ton on Thurs­day evening, Tiller­son, the for­mer Exxon Mo­bil CEO, dis­cussed his dif­fi­cult ten­ure work­ing for Trump. He called the pres­i­dent “undis­ci­plined” and said the pres­i­dent “doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read brief­ing re­ports, doesn’t like to get into the de­tails of a lot of things.”

Tiller­son also said Trump of­ten asked him to do things that he had to ex­plain were il­le­gal or oth­er­wise ill-ad­vised.

Tiller­son’s re­buke was met with an even more bit­ing re­sponse Fri­day from Trump, who lav­ished praise on Tiller­son’s re­place­ment while de­mean­ing the man he later fired. “Mike Pom­peo is do­ing a great job, I am very proud of him. His pre­de­ces­sor, Rex Tiller­son, didn’t have the men­tal ca­pac­ity needed,” Trump wrote.

Last year, Trump ap­par­ently had a higher opin­ion of Tiller­son’s abil­i­ties, call­ing him “our won­der­ful sec­re­tary of state.”


White House chief of staff John Kelly has faced pointed crit­i­cism from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.


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