AG pick Barr on presidential investigations (1992)

Listen to what the newly nominated attorney general William Barr says about handling presidential wrongdoing in a 1992 interview with Larry King.

Posted: Dec 8, 2018 12:57 PM
Updated: Dec 8, 2018 1:13 PM

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.

Who the UN ambassador is (or what the United Nations does) is not of particular concern to President Trump. It is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton who know from experience that the role can be a powerful one. The ambassador can publicly buck the administration, as Nikki Haley did, or serve as the unofficial leader of the diplomatic corps in New York -- driving the agenda and leading on key diplomatic relationships.

They don't want an ambassador who does that. They want to consolidate power between them and maintain control over the military-first, protectionist approach to foreign policy that they have driven in their roles. Nominating someone like Heather Nauert, without the relevant experience for this job, downgrading the role below cabinet level (as Pompeo has advocated for) will ensure that foreign policy-making and the center of power on international engagement remains in Washington between Foggy Bottom and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Heather Nauert has, for the most part, been an effective public speaker on behalf of the administration, and before that she was a visible and vocal Trump defender as an anchor on Fox News. They know they have a loyalist.

At the end of the day, President Trump relies on both Pompeo and Bolton, and after rocky relationships with their predecessors, he finally has two men in place who entertain his bombastic and arguably reckless approach to foreign policy. He is fine with Nauert serving in the UN role. He likes her; she is an effective public communicator. The rest doesn't matter to Trump. But Pompeo and Bolton do.

Donald Trump wants to see himself in Nick Ayers.

Chief of Staff John Kelly is rumored to be on the way out, and this time for real. All bets are pointing to Nick Ayers, Georgia native and current chief of staff to Mike Pence. While Kelly has been a loyalist, even when he shouldn't be, their relationship soured months ago and there has long been a rumor of change in the works.

So why Ayers?

To start, he is young, successful and seen as legitimate by the establishment Republicans and conservatives who are not die-hard fans of Trump.

And regardless of how shady his political consulting fees appear to be, he is an ambitious businessman.

(Ayers became wealthy in part from fees generated by his own political consulting firm and his former role as a principal in an ad-buying firm called Target Enterprises, which has served as the media buyer on nearly every race Ayers has worked on since he joined in 2011.This allowed him to earn a consultant's salary while also influencing campaign spending in a way that benefited him financially -- not illegal, just not quite kosher.)

Trump likely sees himself in Ayers and he wants his appointment to serve as an auspicious reflection.

With this new shakeup, Trump defenders and opponents can agree on one thing: With every departure, Donald Trump is getting more of the team he wants at his side.

But the risk for the country is that they are becoming more and more of a team of yes-men and -women unwilling to stand up to an increasingly threatened and off-the-rails President.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 87807

Reported Deaths: 2002
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25454917
Ramsey10349316
Dakota6995125
Anoka5596132
Stearns367023
Washington349255
Scott236632
Olmsted225327
Nobles192016
Blue Earth15566
Wright14937
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Rice12908
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Mower12614
Clay121340
Sherburne106313
Kandiyohi9112
Winona82818
Lyon6344
Steele5132
Freeborn5043
Nicollet49516
Watonwan4954
Benton4923
Todd4722
Le Sueur4413
McLeod4382
Waseca4228
Chisago4211
Crow Wing41018
Otter Tail3734
Beltrami3654
Goodhue3219
Martin2909
Itasca26413
Polk2624
Becker2372
Pine2360
Isanti2340
Carlton2311
Douglas2291
Cottonwood2140
Pipestone2089
Morrison1901
Dodge1880
Chippewa1851
Sibley1693
Meeker1662
Wabasha1660
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Brown1642
Murray1492
Rock1450
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Mille Lacs1363
Faribault1290
Jackson1251
Cass1233
Renville1206
Roseau1090
Pennington1081
Fillmore1050
Houston1040
Swift1041
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Koochiching1003
Lincoln950
Redwood930
Stevens901
Pope820
Hubbard710
Aitkin691
Big Stone660
Wadena610
Grant574
Wilkin553
Norman510
Lake480
Marshall481
Mahnomen451
Lac qui Parle410
Red Lake370
Traverse290
Clearwater240
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson130
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 78552

Reported Deaths: 1255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15133256
Johnson496227
Woodbury486561
Black Hawk431686
Linn3722105
Story326317
Scott271227
Dubuque266140
Dallas265338
Pottawattamie195137
Buena Vista193312
Marshall175634
Sioux12753
Wapello124357
Webster118414
Muscatine105452
Clinton104618
Plymouth100120
Cerro Gordo98621
Crawford9804
Warren9226
Jasper74232
Des Moines7247
Marion7014
Tama68531
Carroll6275
Henry5974
Lee5857
Wright5571
Dickinson4756
Bremer4597
Boone4557
Washington42711
Louisa41915
Franklin33117
Mahaska32619
Delaware3183
Hamilton3143
Jackson2923
Floyd2913
Winneshiek2835
Benton2781
Clay2773
Hardin2731
Winnebago26211
Butler2572
Clarke2533
Emmet24810
Shelby2411
Jones2393
Allamakee2375
Poweshiek2368
Lyon2323
Buchanan2291
Clayton2273
Cedar2171
Guthrie2115
Kossuth2090
Chickasaw2030
Grundy2002
Madison1992
Sac1980
Cherokee1792
Howard1795
Iowa1791
Fayette1781
Mitchell1750
Hancock1712
Harrison1692
Humboldt1693
Calhoun1672
Mills1621
Palo Alto1560
Pocahontas1502
Monroe14410
Page1410
Lucas1386
Jefferson1321
Cass1282
Monona1281
Osceola1210
Appanoose1193
Taylor1191
Union1193
Davis1134
Van Buren1081
Worth1000
Keokuk891
Montgomery855
Ida840
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Fremont790
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