Changes in Trump Cabinet, staff
President Trump submits nominations for attorney general, U.N. ambassador and chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Meanwhile, chief of staff John Kelly is likely on the way out.
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 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 Whitaker 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.
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 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.
If the Senate confirms Nauert, 48, it would elevate a foreign policy novice into the top echelons of U.S. diplomacy as the Trump administration ramps up pressure against Iran and demands that allies take on more responsibility for their own security.
Nauert joined the State Department last year after a career as an anchor and correspondent at Fox News with no government experience. She would replace Nikki Haley, who was twice elected governor of South Carolina but lacked foreign policy experience.
In her new role, Nauert would be responsible for maintaining international support for economic sanctions against North Korea and continuing the Trump administration’s strong support for Israel in the face of mounting scrutiny at the United Nations.
A former news reporter for ABC, Nauert joined Fox in 1996, originally as a correspondent and later as a co-host for Fox and Friends. She left Fox in April 2017.
Trump is one of the show’s biggest fans, and he often finds inspiration in the hosts’ remarks as topics for his morning tweets.
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Trump is expected to choose the head of the Army to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tapping a voluble and unconventional combat veteran to become America’s top military officer, individuals familiar with White House plans said on Friday.
In a move that reflects his penchant for showmanship, the president plans to announce his nomination of Gen. Mark Milley at Saturday’s annual Army-Navy football game, ending months of speculation about who will replace the current chairman, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., who is due to step down next fall.
If confirmed by the Senate, Milley would bring to the job a distinguished record as a commander in the counterinsurgency wars of the last two decades. A graduate of Princeton University, Milley served as a Green Beret and later commanded troops in Afghanistan.
As the Army chief, Milley championed a proposal to create specialized units to train local forces in Afghanistan, while also seeking to improve the Army’s readiness as the Pentagon reorients toward challenges from Russia and China.