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December 10, 2018

Big Personnel Changes Afoot in the White House

William Barr for AG, Heather Nauert at the UN, and John Kelly departs the White House.

Any administration faces turnover, especially after elections. President Donald Trump’s White House is no different in that regard. There were three notable changes in recent days: William Barr for attorney general, John Kelly’s pending departure as chief of staff, and Heather Nauert as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Though all the media attention is focused on John Kelly, Barr is arguably the most consequential. Barr was the attorney general for the late George H.W. Bush, and he will bring much-needed stability to a position most recently held by Jeff Sessions.

The elephant in the room is Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Barr and Mueller go way back, as Mueller served as chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division during Barr’s first tenure as AG. Given Sessions’s recusal from all things Russia, Barr’s active participation — and Mueller once again reporting to him — will be consequential. Barr has questioned Mueller’s loading his team with Democrat donors. He defended Trump for firing Mueller’s pal James Comey and former Acting AG Sally Yates, and he noted that Hillary Clinton’s shady dealings regarding Uranium One could merit further investigation. All that already makes him a target for Democrat opposition. Yet Barr’s experience and history make him well-suited to restore order at the Justice Department.

Did we mention he plays the bagpipes?

Speaking of restoring order, former Marine Gen. John Kelly did yeoman’s work on that front as Trump’s chief of staff. Finding a suitable and capable replacement isn’t going to be easy.

Kelly helped maintain better order and discipline in the White House, plugging the frequent leaks that plagued his predecessor and solidly managing processes, meetings, and information. And while no one can completely stem Trump’s worst self-defeating impulses, Kelly made significant headway. That said, he lacked the political instincts Trump wanted in advance of 2020. Still, Mark Alexander says, “Trump best not berate Gen. Kelly’s honorable service to our nation and his administration with a petulant social media post like his disgraceful remark last Friday about former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.”

There is a quote attributed to the late President Ronald Reagan: “Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines don’t have that problem.” Indeed, Gen. Kelly doesn’t have that problem. After enlisting during Vietnam, serving the nation as a Marine for more than 40 years, losing a son who gave his life as a Marine in Afghanistan in 2011, and then serving the president for the last two years, the nation owes Kelly an enormous debt of gratitude.

Finally, Heather Nauert will soon take over for Nikki Haley as UN ambassador, itself a thankless job that involves regularly rebuking tinpot dictators and globalist “allies” at the United Nations while often standing alone for Liberty. Haley was a stalwart defender of American interests and she will be missed. Nauert, a former Fox News journalist, has worked at the State Department for the last two years and reportedly has a strong relationship with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Given that she’s an otherwise largely unknown quantity, we hope at least that unified front will be helpful in extending Haley’s record.

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