President Trump has nominated William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to lead the Justice Department. Mr. Trump also said that Heather Nauert was his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department.
“He was my first choice since Day 1,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Mo. “He’ll be nominated.”
Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Barr, who supports a strong vision of executive powers, had emerged over the past week following the ouster last month of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the turbulent reception that greeted his installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as the acting attorney general.
Mr. Trump also announced that Heather Nauert, the chief State Department spokeswoman, is his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Nikki R. Haley, as the president began announcing some of the personnel changes he was expected to make after the midterm elections.
Ms. Nauert was a Fox TV anchor before being picked in 2017 to be the State Department’s spokeswoman, and she will probably face skepticism from Senate Democrats for her lack of extensive political or diplomatic experience, which could delay her confirmation until 2019.
But she is well liked at the State Department and is known to have close ties at the White House, particularly with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, and Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner. For much of the past year, Ms. Nauert was rumored to be a possible replacement for Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary.
In another personnel move, John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is expected to leave his post in the next few days, ending a tumultuous 16-month tenure still among the longest for a senior aide to Mr. Trump, two people with direct knowledge of the developments said Friday.
Mr. Kelly and Mr. Trump have grown weary of each other. But Mr. Trump, according to several senior administration officials and people close to him, has so far been unable to bring himself to personally fire a retired four-star military general.
It is unclear who the replacement for Mr. Kelly would be. Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, is seen as a leading candidate. He is supported by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s son-in-law and daughter, who both serve as senior West Wing advisers and who, according to several officials, are trying to expand their influence internally and in Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.
The choice of Mr. Barr was well received by Republicans as soon as s it became known that he had emerged as permanent replacement for Mr. Sessions.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, predicted that Republicans would be able to secure the votes needed to confirm him — one of the highest potential hurdles for any Justice Department nominee given the ongoing special counsel investigation.
President Trump said he would nominate William P. Barr as attorney general.CreditTime Warner, via Associated Press
“He is the kind of person who could get confirmed,” he said. “I think it is going to be challenging in any event.”
But parts of his record are likely to be closely scrutinized by Democrats. Mr. Barr has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, including suggesting that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, hired too many prosecutors who had donated to Democratic campaigns. He also has defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.
“There is nothing inherently wrong about a president calling for an investigation,” Mr. Barr told The New York Times last year. “Although an investigation shouldn’t be launched just because a president wants it, the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation.”
Mr. Barr added then that he saw more basis for investigating the uranium deal than any supposed conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. “To the extent it is…