President Trump officially tapped former Attorney General William Barr to once again helm the Justice Department, as well as State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“[Barr] was my first choice since day one,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn Friday afternoon before leaving to speak to a police officers’ convention in Kansas City. “He will be nominated.”
Trump praised Barr as a “highly respected lawyer” and a “brilliant man.”
If confirmed, Barr would replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who President Trump publicly condemned him after recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Since Sessions resigned as attorney general at Trump’s request a day after the midterm election, Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, has been serving as the acting attorney general.
Barr served as the nation’s top law enforcement official under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. He has gained praised by many Republicans and some Democrats in Washington, but might face a very tough confirmation battle in the Senate due to his recently criticism of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, questioning whether Mueller is plagued by political bias.
“I would have liked to see [Mueller] have more balance on this group,” Barr told The Washington Post last year, citing political donations from some attorneys on Mueller’s team to Democrats. “Prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party
Trump told reporters that the Senate will confirm Barr “very quickly,” urging Senators not to delay.
“Hopefully that process will go very quickly and I think it will go very quickly, and I’ve seen very good things about him over the last day or so,” Trump said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised President Trump’s nomination of Barr to be attorney general saying he intends to help move his confirmation process through the Senate.
“President Trump made an outstanding decision in nominating William Barr to serve as the next Attorney General. Mr. Barr is highly capable, highly respected and will provide new and much-needed leadership for the Department of Justice,” Graham said in a statement. “I will do everything in my power to push him through the Senate Judiciary Committee and onto the floor of the Senate for eventual confirmation as soon as possible.”
Prior to announcing Barr, Trump announced that he would nominate Heather Nauert to be the next ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert currently serves as the State Department spokesperson and was seen as the favorite to replace Nikki Haley.
I am pleased to announce that Heather Nauert, Spokeswoman for the United States Department of State, will be nominated to serve as United Nations Ambassador. I want to congratulate Heather, and thank Ambassador Nikki Haley for her great service to our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
Haley abruptly resign in October, triggering rumors and speculations that she is aspiring a higher office down the road. In remarks announcing her plans to resign, Haley stated she wanted to take a break from public office. The former South Carolina Governor said she plans to stay as UN Ambassador until the end of the year, giving President Trump some time to find a replacement and to hopefully be confirmed by the Senate.
“It’s been eight years of intense time and I’m a big believer in term limits,” Haley said. “You have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job.”
Trump said he had a shortlist of five candidates to replace Haley shortly after her announced departure, including Dina Powell, his former deputy national security adviser. Reports surfaced in late October that Trump was considering Nauert for the position.