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With Barr, Nauert and Milley, Trump chooses a varied cast

A month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign, President Trump has picked his desired replacement: William P. Barr, whom he called “my first choice since day one.” The president also announced his choices for UN ambassador, Heather Nauert, and Gen. Mark Milley for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For background on the selections, Judy Woodruff turns to Yamiche Alcindor.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The day's other major story: The president announced his picks for three key posts, U.S. attorney general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, and ambassador to the United Nations.

    Our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, is here to lay out these latest staff shakeups.

    So, Yamiche, let's talk first about the president's pick to be attorney general. There's an acting attorney general, but Bob Barr, Robert Barr, who has been — or — sorry — William Barr, who served in the administration of President Bush, George H.W. Bush, is now being asked by President Trump to become attorney general.

    What do we know about him?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, what we know is that William Barr is looked at as a respected attorney and that Democrats and Republicans signaled that they could get behind him and support him as attorney general.

    I want to walk you through who William Barr is. From 1991 to 1993, he was attorney general for the late former President George H.W. Bush. He was, however, involved in the controversial Iran-Contra pardons. He formerly worked for the CIA in the 1970s, and he was an executive at Verizon. He is now practicing law in Washington, D.C.

    People that I talked to today told me that he's an establishment Republican. This is not someone who's a Trump loyalist. The president has filled, at times, the Cabinet members and the White House with people who are loyal to him personally. But this is someone that someone like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, another Republican, had they become president, might have picked for their attorney general.

    I'm also told that he is someone who has had some past comments that are controversial on special investigations and special counsel.

    I want to read you something from The New York Times in — on November 14, 2017, The New York Times published an article where they said — quote — "Mr. Barr said he sees basis, more basis for investigating the Clinton uranium deal than any supposed collusion between Mr. Trump and Russia."

    And Mr. Barr told The New York Times: "To the extent it is not pursuing these matters to department, is department is abdicating its responsibility."

    So, to be clear, Mr. Barr is saying that Hillary Clinton might need to be investigated some more. He's also said that it's OK for presidents to specifically ask for investigations to happen under the DOJ.

    The Democratic National Committee today put out a statement saying that they could get behind William Barr, but that he's going to have to prove to the American people that he can be an independent law enforcement officer and that he can stand up to President Trump.

    So both sides are looking at him as someone that they could support. But they say that he has to prove that he's going to be independent.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Crucial — excuse me — crucial because he oversees the Mueller investigation.

    So, second, let's talk about his appointment to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, Heather Nauert. She has been the spokesperson and assistant secretary of state.

    What do we know about her?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    I'm going to quickly walk you through her bio. She was spokesperson for the State Department. She was appointed by President Trump in April 2017.

    She's a former correspondent for FOX News and a correspondent for ABC News. So she's someone who has a lot of experience in journalism. I'm told today that President Trump appointed her because she's a good talker. She's someone who has defended this administration's foreign policy plans.

    The president said she's very smart, very quick . People I have talked to you say that she is someone who could talk — who could really come up to speed on the U.N.'s dealings, that she could do the outside job, which is giving speeches, and that she could rely on her staff as much like Nikki Haley did to talk about other countries and get them to really — to really support the things that the United States wants them to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But no significant diplomatic experience.

    What about the appointment of Mark Milley, General Mark Milley, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So this is someone else that I'm going to have to pull up a graphic for.

    He is a four-star general and the Army chief of staff. He is a Special Forces officer. He was. He commanded troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and Korea.

    And the people that I talked to who know him very well say that he's someone who's very blunt. He is someone that, once he figures out that he's right or thinks that he's right, is someone who is going to push for his point of view. That, of course, could mean that he gets along with President Trump, who also is someone that's like that, or that he could butt heads with the president instantly.

    I'm also told that he really likes to deal with troops. He likes to visit troops. I talked to someone who spent time with him in Afghanistan, and he told me a really funny anecdote.

    And that anecdote is that he went to visit French troops, a French battalion, and they prepared baguette, which are traditional French bread, for him. And when he bit into this baguette, his dentures got stuck in the breath.

    (LAUGHTER)

    And the troops were saying, "Oh, my God, we're so embarrassed." And he said: "It's OK troops. I sometimes carry a spare pair of teeth with me."

    (LAUGHTER)

    So he's someone who's really down-to-earth and who is beloved in a lot of ways by troops.

    So he could — he could be someone who gets along with the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He may need that sense of humor.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

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