Chief of staff could be next in line to de­part White House

San Antonio Express-News - - METRO -

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day ac­cel­er­ated a long-an­tic­i­pated shake-up of his Cab­i­net in the wake of the midterm elec­tions, nam­ing new picks for at­tor­ney gen­eral and U.N. am­bas­sador amid wide­spread spec­u­la­tion that the 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 whirring blades from Ma­rine One.

If con­firmed by the Se­nate, Barr will take over for act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker. An un­fet­tered Trump in­stalled him 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.

After a CNN re­port Fri­day morn­ing that Kelly could be step­ping down in a mat­ter of days, 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 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.

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, re­quest­ing 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 said it’s not cer­tain that the de­par­ture was im­mi­nent as CNN re­ported. The of­fi­cial re­quested anonymity to dis­cuss a sen­si­tive mat­ter.

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

Kelly, a re­tired four-star Ma­rine Corps 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.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Trump is ex­pected to name Gen. Mark A. Mil­ley, the Army chief of staff, to be the next chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top-rank­ing mil­i­tary po­si­tion in the coun­try, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

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