President sends mixed signals with new nominees
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 and Friends news personality 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 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.