WASHINGTON — President Donald 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,” Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Missouri. “He’ll be nominated.”
Trump’s focus on 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 Whitaker as the acting attorney general.
The move at the Justice Department is one part of a larger staff shake-up underway.
Trump also announced that Heather Nauert, the chief State Department spokeswoman, is his pick to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.
In addition, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is likely to leave his post in the next few days, ending a tumultuous 16-month tenure still among the longest for a senior aide to Trump, two people with direct knowledge of the developments said Friday.
Kelly and Trump have grown weary of each other. But 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 general.
Still, both are said to be ready for Kelly to move on.
It is unclear who the replacement 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 the re-election campaign.
The White House senior staff meeting Friday morning was canceled, according to three officials. But there is a holiday senior staff dinner scheduled for Friday night and people said they expected Kelly to be there.