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Trump appoints former AG Bill Barr to be attorney general, taps Nauert for UN post


Barr will replace acting AG Matt Whitaker

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he is nominating former Attorney General Bill Barr fill the role left by Jeff Sessions last month. At the same time, he officially announced that State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News journalist Heather Nauert was his pick to replace Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations. Both Barr and Nauert will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Who is Bill Barr?

Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 during the George H. W. Bush administration. Trump called Barr a "terrific man" and said that he was "my first choice since day one."

Last November, Barr told the New York Times that he thought there was more of a case for investigating the Clinton Foundation's role in Russia's acquisition of Uranium One than there was for the Russia investigation.

"To the extent it is not pursuing these matters, the department is abdicating its responsibility," Barr said.

Barr has also supported increasing the president's ability to act independently of Congress. In 1989 he wrote a memo detailing ways the executive branch should push back against what he viewed as “interference" with presidential authority by Congress.

The memo warned that Congress was “ increasingly attempted to assert itself in the area of foreign affairs at the expense of the authority traditionally exercised by the President." He also wrote that when it came to presidential appointments, Congress “frequently imposes such significant limitations on whom the President may appoint that Congress effectively makes the appointment itself."

"It is important that all of us be familiar with each of these forms of encroachment on the executive's constitutional authority," he wrote. "Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved." Congress's “methods of intruding on executive power" he claimed “are limited only by Congress's imagination."

After Sessions resigned in early November, Barr co-authored an opinion piece along with Ed Meese (Ronald Reagan's attorney general) and Michael B. Mukasey (who was attorney general at the end of George W. Bush's final term in office) which ran in the Washington Post, praising Sessions. “We are three former attorneys general who served in Republican administrations — from different backgrounds, with different perspectives and who took different actions while in office," they wrote. “But we share the view that Jeff Sessions, who resigned at President Trump's request on Wednesday, has been an outstanding attorney general.”

What else?

Barr will replace acting-Attorney General Matt Whitaker. Senate Democrats had objected to the appointment of Whitaker, who had formerly served as chief of staff for Sessions, and had filed a formal complaint against his appointment which they called “unlawful" since he did not receive a Senate confirmation. Attorneys general do need confirmation, but the president can appoint a temporary replacement to a post for no more than 210 days.

Whitaker was also criticized for an op-ed he had written in CNN last year in which he argued that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was in danger of “going too far."

Who is Heather Nauert?

Heather Nauert is a former journalist who worked for both ABC and Fox news. She has been State Department spokeswoman since April 2017.

She was also briefly appointed to be the acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Confirming the appointment to reporters outside the White House, Trump praised Nauert, saying she was “very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she's going to be respected by all."

Nauert will be replacing Haley, who served as South Carolina governor for six years before she was given the role. Haley announced on Oct. 9 that she would be resigning as U.N. ambassador at the end of the year, because she needed to "take a break." She has insisted that she does not plan to run for president in 2020.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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