Trump surrounding himself with yes-men and yes-womenJen Psaki
In the olden days of presidential appointments and nominations, the focus was justifiably on the nominees — their background, what their policy positions said about the role they would play in an administration and whether or not they would get confirmed.
But the recent round of nominations in this administration also says a lot about Donald Trump. For one thing, all the nominees look the part — a vapid and meaningless qualification that has, according to early transition team officials and Trump associates, proven to be a central driver in Donald Trump’s decision-making on key appointments.
His newest selections? Friday, Trump announced that he has picked William Barr — who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush — to replace ousted AG Jeff Sessions. He also announced the selection of Heather Nauert — the chief State Department spokeswoman — to replace the outgoing Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the United Nations. At the same time, chief of staff John Kelly is reportedly headed out the door soon, with Trump eyeing Nick Ayers, Mike Pence’s chief of staff, to replace him.
Here is my bet on what’s behind Trump’s picks.
Donald Trump believes that the job of the attorney general is to protect him.
It is a smart political move to nominate anyone who served under George H.W. Bush in a week where the late President’s life of civility, collegiality and public service has been justifiably celebrated.
But Barr should not be mistaken for a mainstream or moderate pick. He is a strong defender of sweeping presidential power. Long before the Russia investigation and the national obsession with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in 1992 Barr helped President George H.W. Bush pardon key witnesses in the Iran-Contra scandal, cutting the legs from under the independent prosecutor.
In more recent months he has defended Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and advocated for investigating President Trump’s political enemies, even defending the bizarre Uranium One conspiracy theory that targeted Hillary Clinton and has been debunked.
This nomination is about one thing: Donald Trump’s survival.
He is betting on Barr’s defense of the power of the President to fire anyone he wants at any time he wants; betting on his history of bucking independent prosecutors and his shared animosity for Trump’s enemies. Trump is betting that as the person who will be overseeing the Russia investigation, and who is likely skeptical of the need for a subpoena Trump, Barr will protect him.
Donald Trump doesn’t care about or understand the role of UN ambassador, but he does care about Secretary Pompeo and national security adviser Bolton.