TRUMP NOMINATES WILLIAM BARR AS ATTORNEY GENERAL AND FORMER FOX NEWS JOURNALIST HEATHER NAUERT AS UN AMBASSADOR
Donald Trump has announced he is nominating William Barr as his new attorney general and former Fox News journalist Heather Nauert as US ambassador to the UN.
Mr Barr held the same position during the presidency of George HW Bush, while Mr Trump described Ms Nauert as “very talented” and “very smart.”
Ms Nauert is to replace Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who announced in October that she would step down as ambassador at the end of this year.
Ms Nauert is a former Fox News Channel reporter who had little foreign policy experience before becoming State Department spokeswoman. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be a leading administration voice on Mr Trump's foreign policy.
As for Mr Barr, he would replace acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, who Mr Trump appointed after forcing out Jeff Sessions after the midterm elections last month. Mr Whitaker has also been overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into election meddling by Russia and any possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Mr Whitaker has been the source of controversy over previous comments relating to the scope of Mr Mueller's investigation, and how it could be undercut by slashing its funding.
Mr Trump has been vocally critical of the investigation, repeatedly calling it a "witch hunt" and denying allegations of any collusion and obstruction of justice.
Mr Barr has echoed sentiments sympathetic to Mr Trump and his administration. The attorney general nominee alleged that political donations hint Mr Mueller's team of prosecutors—whom the President called "17 Angry Dems" on Twitter—harbour left-wing bias.
"I would have liked to see him have more balance on this group," Mr Barr told the Washington Post in July 2017.
Mr Barr rebuked the special counsel's investigation, arguing that there is more cause to investigate Hillary Clinton—Mr Trump's 2016 presidential rival–for potential collusion with Russia. He also defended Mr Trump's controversial firing of James Comey, then then-FBI Director leading the Russia investigation, in May 2017.
If confirmed, Mr Barr would have authority over the Russia problem except if he recuses himself from overseeing the investigation. Mr Jeff Sessions recused himself in March 2017.
Considering Mr Barr's past statements on Mueller, Clinton and Comey, it is likely for Senate Democrats to oppose his nomination.
"I do think he's worthy of consideration. I am concerned he has said some negative things about the Special Counsel's office and some of the prosecutors he had in place," Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told MSNBC on Thursday after Barr was rumoured to be one of Mr Trump's attorney general picks.
The vote for his nomination is expected to take place early next year after the 116th Congress will reconvene in January. Republicans will have slight control of the Senate with a 53-47 majority.
Mr Trump made the nomination announcement to reporters Friday as he departed the White House for a trip to Kansas City.
It comes on the same day that Mr Mueller and his team is set to release details about indictments against former Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Mr Manafort was Mr trump's former campaign chairman during his 2016 bid for the White House, while Mr Cohen was his long-term personal lawyer and fixer.