Donald Trump taps William Barr for attorney general, Heather Nauert for U.N.

December 7, 2018

President Trump said Friday he will nominate William P. Barr as attorney general and Heather Nauert as ambassador to the United Nations.

“He was my first choice since day one,” the president said of Mr. Barr, who served as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, calling him “a brilliant man.”

“I think he will serve with great distinction,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

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, 68, is a former general counsel and executive vice president of Verizon Communications who works currently as a lawyer at the firm of Kirkland Ellis.

“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.”

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.”

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.

“It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and succession,” Mr. Trump said.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He was nominated for a second 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. Mr. Whitaker, who served as chief of staff to Mr. Sessions, was believed to be in the running for the nomination for the permanent top job at the Justice Department.

Mr. Whitaker is traveling with the president on Air Force One Friday to attend Mr. Trump’s speech at a Justice Department conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

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.

Mr. Trump called him “a highly respected lawyer” who is praised by both parties.

“I did not know him until recently when I went through the process of looking at people,” Mr. Trump said.

Update hourly