Trump picks former A-G William Barr for job again

U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen former Attorney-General (A-G) of the George H.W. Bush administration, William P. Barr, for the role again. If he is confirmed, Mr. Barr will replace acting AG Matthew G. Whitaker, who has also been a contender for the top job at the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr “will be nominated for the United States Attorney-General and hopefully that process will go very quickly,” Mr. Trump said before boarding Marine One this morning en route to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

“I’ve seen very good things about him even over the last day or so when people thought it might be Bill Barr,” he added.

The President also said State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert is his pick for U.S.’s next Ambassador to the United Nations

Critical time

The appointment of the A-G comes at a critical time for the Justice Department and for Mr. Trump, as the Department’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller is in the midst of investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, including any Russia ties the Trump campaign and Mr. Trump may have had.

Mr. Barr, currently a lawyer at the firm Kirkland & Ellis, has worked as a lawyer for high profile firms, including at telecom company Verizon. Mr. Barr will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

According to reports, news of the potential appointment of an establishment Republican had been well received by some Democrats and Republicans, but the confirmation process is nevertheless likely to be tough.

Mr. Barr is a proponent of extensive presidential powers. While not seen as a Trump loyalist, Mr. Barr, who had initially said the Mueller probe was unlikely to become a “witch hunt”, later questioned the political leanings of those on Mr. Mueller’s team. Last year, Mr. Barr told the New York Times that there was more basis to investigate a uranium company merger deal and its links to the Clintons than there was to probe any Russia-Trump connections statements that are likely to rile the Democrats.

Confirmation process

“Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a President wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation,” Mr. Barr had said. The confirmation process could take months, given that a new Congress will form in 2019.

On the UN front, Ms. Nauert, 48, will replace Nikki Haley at the UN, who will resign at the end of this year.A Columbia journalism school graduate and former ABC reporter, Ms. Nauert had two stints at Fox News, the first of which started in 1998 as a reporter. In 2007, she re-joined Fox News and eventually became an anchor on Fox and Friends, a show that Mr. Trump watches, has been a guest on and frequently tweets about.

“She’s done a great job working with Mike Pompeo and others over at the state department. She’ll be Ambassador to the United Nations. She’s very talented, very smart, very quick and I think that she will be respected by all,” said the President.

Ms. Nauert joined the administration in April 2017, with no foreign policy experience and she played a relatively low-key role owing to a reportedly strained relationship with former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Ms. Nauert is seen as a strong Trump loyalist, while Mr. Tillerson often differed with the President.

Ms. Nauert’s profile became more visible after Mr. Tillerson was fired in March. Secretary Pompeo appointed her as Acting Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy in April this year and she has accompanied Mr. Pompeo on foreign trips, most recently to Brussels on December 3 for a NATO meeting of Foreign Ministers and meetings with the Belgian administration as Belgium takes a seat at the UN Security Council.

Lack of experience

Critics have said that while Ms. Nauert may have significant journalism credentials, she lacks foreign policy or other equivalent experience required for the UN job.

Ms. Haley, for instance, was the elected Governor of a State with considerable administrative experience and she was also close to Mr. Trump and therefore perceived as having had the authority to negotiate and represent the President at the UN, David Gergen, a former adviser to former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton, told CNN on Thursday.

“In terms of what we look for in the United Nations, her resume is very thin,” Mr. Gergen said. “Traditionally… we’ve either had people with a lot of experience in international affairs and /or a lot of experience as academics,” he said.

Ms. Nauert will also have to be confirmed by the Senate.

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