STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

From TV host to UN Ambassador Pick

Heather Nauert went from being a Fox News anchor to State Department spokeswoman to Trump's nominee for US ambassador to the UN in just two years.

Posted: Dec 9, 2018 2:08 AM
Updated: Dec 9, 2018 2:08 AM

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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds282449
DeSoto186519
Madison141936
Jones118549
Harrison109615
Rankin106315
Neshoba103976
Forrest97243
Lauderdale95481
Scott80915
Jackson74418
Washington70010
Copiah64215
Leake62120
Lee60022
Oktibbeha58928
Holmes57941
Warren57720
Grenada5698
Wayne56018
Yazoo5486
Lowndes53613
Leflore52856
Lamar5227
Lincoln51935
Pike48820
Sunflower4708
Lafayette4644
Monroe43935
Panola4326
Covington4295
Bolivar39418
Simpson3843
Attala38324
Newton36710
Adams34719
Pontotoc3396
Tate33313
Marion32412
Claiborne30011
Winston29611
Chickasaw29319
Pearl River28132
Noxubee2778
Marshall2763
Jasper2716
Clay25611
Walthall2497
Union24611
Smith23712
Coahoma2196
Clarke21725
Lawrence2022
Yalobusha2028
Kemper18314
Tallahatchie1784
Carroll17411
Humphreys16110
Calhoun1605
Montgomery1513
Itawamba1458
Tippah14411
Hancock14113
Webster13411
Jefferson1223
Tunica1213
Jefferson Davis1184
Prentiss1173
George1123
Greene11210
Amite1083
Quitman971
Tishomingo971
Wilkinson969
Alcorn942
Perry794
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin542
Sharkey470
Benton440
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6219167
Mobile4625138
Montgomery4397111
Tuscaloosa258652
Madison19839
Marshall190411
Shelby155724
Lee153537
Morgan12415
Baldwin117011
Walker105631
Elmore100721
Dallas9789
Franklin92816
Etowah91914
DeKalb8647
Russell6650
Chambers66427
Autauga66214
Butler64529
Tallapoosa62569
Unassigned61627
Limestone5963
Houston5616
Lauderdale5556
Cullman5546
St. Clair4842
Colbert4816
Lowndes48022
Escambia4688
Pike4675
Calhoun4565
Coffee4164
Covington40312
Jackson4022
Barbour3772
Bullock37610
Dale3721
Talladega3677
Hale34323
Marengo34211
Clarke3036
Wilcox2998
Chilton2952
Winston2925
Sumter28713
Blount2811
Marion26714
Pickens2626
Monroe2553
Randolph2489
Conecuh2278
Perry2242
Bibb2151
Macon2129
Choctaw20912
Greene1929
Henry1463
Washington1367
Crenshaw1263
Lawrence1210
Cherokee1157
Geneva950
Lamar871
Clay822
Fayette811
Coosa631
Cleburne421
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 87°
Columbus
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 85°
Starkville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 73°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather