SEVERE WX : Severe Thunderstorm Warning View Alerts

Trump's cabinet shake-up kicks into gear

A shake-up is underway at the White House as President Trump announced nominations to fill his most high-profile vacancies while sources say chief of staff John Kelly is expected to resign within days.

Posted: Dec 9, 2018 9:22 AM
Updated: Dec 9, 2018 9:38 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.

West Lafayette
Broken Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 71°
Kokomo
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Rensselaer
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Fowler
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Williamsport
Overcast
65° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 65°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 63°
Frankfort
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 67°
Delphi
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 69°
Monticello
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 69°
Logansport
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 50300

Reported Deaths: 2748
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11920692
Lake5432248
Elkhart347058
Allen2902133
St. Joseph205169
Hamilton1665101
Cass16449
Hendricks1446100
Johnson1325118
Porter80238
Tippecanoe7599
Clark68144
Vanderburgh6816
Madison67264
LaPorte60527
Howard59458
Bartholomew59345
Kosciusko5704
Marshall5308
Noble50128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4783
Boone47444
Delaware46952
Hancock46036
Shelby43525
Floyd40444
Morgan33631
Monroe32928
Grant30926
Dubois2976
Henry29717
Montgomery29720
Clinton2893
White26810
Decatur25532
Dearborn25423
Lawrence25225
Vigo2478
Warrick24329
Harrison21722
Greene19332
Miami1922
Jennings17912
Putnam1728
DeKalb1674
Scott1639
Wayne1536
Daviess15017
Perry1459
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1332
Franklin1278
Ripley1277
Wabash1152
Carroll1132
Gibson1132
Fayette1057
Whitley1045
Newton10010
Starke983
Huntington932
Randolph794
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington681
Knox670
Clay665
Pulaski661
Rush613
Posey550
Owen521
Benton510
Spencer501
Adams491
Sullivan471
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Tipton321
Switzerland300
Martin240
Parke230
Ohio220
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events