Trump announces nominations for attorney general, UN ambassador
President Trump announced a pair of key appointments Friday, saying he would nominate William Barr to be attorney general and state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as UN ambassador.
“I want to confirm that Bill Barr — one of the most respected jurists in the country — highly respected lawyer, former attorney general under the [George H.W.] Bush administration, a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man. He will be nominated for the United States Attorney General,” the president said on the White House lawn before boarding Marine One for the first leg of a trip to Kansas City, Missouri.
Barr would need confirmation by the Senate, and the president said he hoped that process “will go very quickly.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would succeed Jeff Sessions, who was forced out by Trump in November following an acrimonious tenure during which the former Alabama senator was subjected to a torrent of presidential abuse.
Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, is currently serving as acting attorney general.
Trump’s fury at Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation — which helped set in motion the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller — created deep tensions between Trump and his Justice Department.
He sometimes puts the word “Justice” in quotes when referring to the department in tweets and has railed against its leaders for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton as extensively as he would like.
Democrats will presumably seek reassurances during confirmation proceedings that Barr, who as attorney general would be in a position to oversee Mueller’s investigation, would not do anything to interfere with the probe.
Barr was attorney general between 1991 and 1993, serving in the Justice Department at the same Mueller oversaw the department’s criminal division.
Democratic New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, who is expected to be next chairman of House Judiciary Committee, said he’s not that familiar with Barr and was still concerned about Whitaker’s role at Justice.
“Barr will have to go before the Senate for confirmation. That will take some time. The real question now is Whitaker is still the acting Attorney General without having gone through the Senate,” Nadler said.
“I believe that’s unconstitutional. There’s lots of questions about his bias and his having prejudged the outcome of the Mueller investigation have not been answered. They should be answered.”
Trump also praised Nauert, who was named spokeswoman at State in April 2017 but had no prior government experience, having worked as a co-host on “Fox & Friends,” one of the president’s favorite TV shows.
“I also want to inform you that Heather Nauert, somebody that we know very well, who has done a great job … working with Mike Pompeo and others over at the State Department,” he said.
“Heather Nauert will be nominated. She’s going to work with Nikki Haley to replace Nikki at the United Nations. She’ll be ambassador to the United Nations. She’s very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she’s going to be respected by all,” he said.
Nauert has a BA in communications from Mount Vernon College for Women and received her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Nauert, who also worked as a Fox News Channel reporter and for ABC News, would be a leading administration voice on Trump’s foreign policy.
When then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by a tweet in March and replaced with Mike Pompeo, Nauert was appointed acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, making her the fourth highest-ranking official in the building.
She oversaw public diplomacy in Washington and all of the roughly 275 overseas US embassies, consulates and other posts.
She was also in charge of the Global Engagement Center that fights extremist messaging from the ISIS and other groups, and she has a seat on the US Agency for Global Media that oversees government broadcast networks such as Voice of America.
Barred from traveling with Tillerson, she embarked on her own overseas trips, visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar last year to see the plight of Rohingya Muslims, and then Israel after a planned stop in Syria was scrapped.
The president also hinted at another appointment to be announced this weekend.
“I have another one for tomorrow that I’m going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game. I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession. And I look forward to telling you,” he said.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will finish his second term in 2018.
Dunford was nominated to the post in 2015 by former President Barack Obama, and Trump nominated him for a second two-year term last year.