Kelly expected to depart from the White House
Sources indicate Trump is looking to Pence's chief of staff to fill the vacancy Choice for U.N. likely to be quizzed on diplomatic resume
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump inched closer to his long-teased major White House shake-up Friday, gearing up for the twin challenges of battling for re-election and dealing with the Democrats' investigations once they take control of the House. The biggest piece of the shifting picture: Chief of Staff John Kelly's departure now appears certain.
Trump announced he was picking a new U.S. attorney genera l and a new ambassador to the U.N. , and at the same time two senior aides departed the White House to beef up his 2020 campaign. But the largest changes were still to come. Kelly's replacement in the coming weeks is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the administration.
According to nearly a dozen current and former administration officials and outside confidants, Trump is nearly ready to replace Kelly and has even begun telling people to contact the man long viewed as his likely successor.
“Give Nick a call,” Trump has instructed people, referring to Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, according to one person familiar with the discussions.
Like all of those interviewed, the person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel matters.
Trump has hardly been shy about his dissatisfaction with the team he had chosen and has been weighing all sorts of changes over the past several months. He delayed some of the biggest shifts until after the November elections at the urging of aides who worried that adding to his
already-record turnover just before the voting would harm his party's electoral chances.
Now, nearly a month after those midterms, in which his party surrendered control of the House to Democrats but expanded its slim majority in the Senate, Trump is starting to make moves.
He announced Friday that he'll nominate William Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, to the same role in his administration. If confirmed, Barr will fill the slot vacated by Jeff Sessions, who was unceremoniously jettisoned by Trump last month over lingering resentment for recusing himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation.
Sessions was exiled less than 24 hours after polls closed. But Trump's broader efforts to reshape his inner circle have been on hold, leading to a sense of near-paralysis in the building, with people unsure of what to do.
Trump also announced that State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert is his pick to replace Nikki Haley as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and he said he'd have another announcement Saturday about the military's top brass.
All this came the same day that Trump's re-election campaign announced that two veterans of the president's 2016 campaign, White House political director Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, the director of the office of public liaison, were leaving the administration to work on Trump's reelection campaign.
“Now is the best opportunity to be laser-focused on further building out the political infrastructure that will support victory for President Trump and the GOP in 2020,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
The moves had long been planned, and will give Kelly's eventual successor room to build a new White House political team.
Kelly was not at the White House on Friday, but was expected to attend an East Room dinner with the president and senior staff.
Ayers, who is a seasoned campaign veteran despite his relative youth — he's just 36 — has the backing of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president's daughter and son-in-law and senior advisers, for the new role, according to White House officials..
Trump and Kelly's relationship has been strained for months — with Kelly on the verge of resignation and Trump nearly firing him several times. But each time the two have decided to make amends, even as Kelly's influence has waned.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's pick to be America's ambassador at the United Nations is likely to face questions about her thin diplomatic resume during an upcoming Senate confirmation hearing that will shine fresh attention on the president's “America first” approach to foreign policy.
If confirmed by the Senate, Heather Nauert, a 48-year-old former Fox News Channel reporter, will replace Nikki Haley. Nauert had little foreign policy experience before taking the podium as spokeswoman for the State Department.
Nauert's confirmation could hinge on her performance at the hearing. Still, she stands a good chance of approval because after the new Congress begins in January, Republicans will have a 53-47 vote majority over Democrats in the Senate.
In announcing his decision on Friday, Trump said Nauert was “very talented, very smart, very quick.” He said he thought she would be “respected by all.”
Others, including former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, criticized the choice. Nauert's job as spokeswoman at State is “to read talking points and explain policy,” McFaul tweeted. The job of U.N. ambassador is very different, he said, and usually requires foreign policy or diplomatic expertise or both.
Trump backer Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued a statement praising Nauert, but his Republican colleagues who sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were silent.
“I've known Heather for many years. She is a fine and capable person,” Graham said, adding that she had the confidence of Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
If she gets the job, Nauert would take the post with less clout than Haley, a former South Carolina governor who announced in October that she would step down this year.
Trump is downgrading the ambassador's position to a subCabinet-level post. That means Nauert could be overshadowed by Pompeo or Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, who had the U.N. job in 2005 and 2006. She also would be going up against foreign counterparts like the U.N. representatives from Russia and China, who each have decades of experience in diplomacy.
Nauert thanked Trump and said she was humbled at being chosen. “If confirmed, I look forward to continuing the outstanding job Ambassador Haley has done representing your administration and the American people.”
Haley herself arrived at the United Nations with little foreign policy experience beyond promoting international investments in South Carolina. However, she quickly learned key issues and how the U.N. operates.
Because of her work at the State Department, Nauert would have the advantage of knowing the Trump administration's position on major global issues. But without being a member of the Cabinet, she wouldn't have the same independence Haley enjoyed.
Pompeo tweeted that Nauert has traveled with him since he took the helm of the State Department. “I have great confidence in her. Heather plays a key role in advancing U.S. foreign policy & I look forward to her speedy confirmation.”