- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2018

President Trump said Friday he will nominate William P. Barr as attorney general and State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as ambassador to the United Nations, prominent moves on a day of staff shakeups that is expected to include the departure of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

The president said Mr. Barr, who served as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, “was my first choice since day one.”

“I think he will serve with great distinction,” Mr. Trump told reporters, calling him a “brilliant man.”

If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker, who took over in November for fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Barr is a former general counsel and executive vice president of Verizon Communications who works currently as a lawyer at the firm of Kirkland & Ellis.

Mr. Whitaker, who was in the running for the nomination, praised the president’s choice at a law-enforcement conference with Mr. Trump Friday in Kansas City, Missouri.

“The president’s selection of Bill Barr for the next Attorney General is a continuation of this law and order presidency,” Mr. Whitaker said. “Bill is supremely qualified, highly respected at the Department of Justice and will continue to support the women and men in blue. I commend the president for this excellent choice.”

The president also confirmed that Ms. Nauert is his choice to replace Ambassador Nikki Haley at the U.N. The president said Ms. Nauert, a former Fox News personality, has been doing “a great job” as State Department spokeswoman since the beginning of his administration.

“She’s very talented, very smart, very quick,” the president said. “I think she’s going to be respected by all.”

The president is believed to be considering moving the ambassador’s job back to a sub-Cabinet post, the status it has traditionally held in Republican administrations. Ms. Haley had lobbied to raise her job’s profile to Cabinet-level two years ago.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan called the nomination an “excellent selection.”

“As one of the United States’ strongest voices on the global stage, Heather will seamlessly transition to the country’s top diplomat at the U.N.,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said.

Mr. Trump didn’t answer reporters’ questions Friday about the fate of Mr. Kelly, whose working relationship with Mr. Trump reportedly has deteriorated so much that the two aren’t on speaking terms. Several sources said Mr. Kelly could resign within days.

On a day of other staff shakeups, the president also said he’ll have an announcement of a major change in his top military brass on Saturday when he attends the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. He reportedly intends to name Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to become the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He was nominated for a second two-year term as chairman by Mr. Trump in May 2017 and approved by the Senate in September 2017.

The post of attorney general has vexed Mr. Trump since the early days of his presidency, when Mr. Sessions recused himself from overseeing an investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. That move ultimately led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, whose long-running investigation has been criticized bitterly by the president.

Mr. Barr has been critical publicly of the special counsel’s investigation.

Mr. Trump slammed Mr. Sessions repeatedly for the past two years, finally asking for his resignation on the day after the midterm elections last month.

The president said Mr. Barr is respected by both Republicans and Democrats.

“I’ve seen very good things about him even over the last day or so, when people thought it might be Bill Barr [as the nominee],” the president said. “Hopefully that [confirmation] process will go very quickly. I did not know him until recently when I went through the process of looking at people.”

Mr. Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under Mr. Bush, who died last week at age 94. He also worked at the CIA in the 1970s and in the Reagan White House in the early 1980s.

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