High-level lawyers are missing from top posts in the US government’s security agencies, leaving the Trump administration to navigate a series of domestic controversies and international crises without a full legal support system in place.

There are government lawyers filling in on an acting basis. But former officials who served in Republican and Democratic administrations say that it is critical to get political appointees confirmed — lawyers who are trusted by senior officials and empowered to defend the legality of the administration’s actions to the public and to foreign governments.

As US officials respond to escalating tensions with North Korea, American forces continue to fight in Syria, and President Trump pushes ahead with legally contested actions on immigration and transgender service in the military, the White House has been slow to nominate the top agency lawyers who advise officials on how they can lawfully respond to sensitive international and domestic security issues.