WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump announced Friday he’s nominating State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations.
“Heather Nauert will be nominated,” Trump said Friday before departing the White House on Marine One for an event in Kansas City. “She’s very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she’s going to be respected by all.”
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Nauert, a former Fox News Channel reporter who had little foreign policy experience before becoming State Department spokeswoman, will replace Nikki Haley. Haley, a former South Carolina governor, announced in October that she would step down at the end of this year. Nauert would be a leading administration voice on Trump’s foreign policy.
Trump told reporters last month that Nauert was “excellent,” adding, “She’s been a supporter for a long time.”
Plucked from Fox by the White House to serve as State Department spokeswoman, Nauert catapulted into the upper echelons of the agency’s hierarchy when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired in March and replaced with Mike Pompeo. Nauert was then appointed acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and was for a time the highest-ranking woman and fourth highest-ranking official in the building.
Nauert, who did not have a good relationship with Tillerson and had considered leaving the department, told associates at the time she was taken aback by the promotion offer and recommended a colleague for the job. But when White House officials told her they wanted her, she accepted.
Trump also said he had chosen former US Attorney General William Barr to once again lead the Justice Department, a role that would put him in charge of the federal probe into Russian election interference.
If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would take over from Matthew Whitaker, who has been serving in an acting capacity since Trump forced out Jeffrey Sessions a month ago. Whitaker had been Sessions’ chief of staff.
Barr was “my first choice from day one,” and “a terrific man, a terrific person, a brilliant man,” Trump said, speaking to reporters outside the White House.
Barr, a lawyer who was previously attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under the late President George H.W. Bush, has defended Trump’s controversial decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 when Comey was leading the Russia probe.
After Comey’s firing, Special Counsel Robert Mueller took over that investigation, which includes any possible collusion between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 election campaign, and any potential obstruction of justice. The Russia probe has long infuriated Trump, who calls it a witch hunt and who has denied any collusion or any obstruction of justice.
Barr has said there is more reason to investigate potential wrongdoing by Trump’s campaign opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, than there is to probe any potential collusion.
Mueller, a Republican, was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Barr has said political donations show Mueller’s team of professional prosecutors tilt uncomfortably to the left. On Twitter, Trump calls them “17 Angry Dems.”
“I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group,” Barr told the Washington Post in July 2017.
As attorney general, Barr would have ultimate responsibility for the Russia probe, unless he recuses himself. Sessions recused himself from overseeing the investigation.
US intelligence agencies have concluded Moscow worked to influence the election and tip it in Trump’s favor. Russia has denied any interference.