Four Candidates for New Chief of Staff 12/10 06:11
President Donald Trump is weighing at least four people to serve as his next
chief of staff, after plans for an orderly succession for departing John Kelly
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is weighing at least four people
to serve as his next chief of staff, after plans for an orderly succession for
departing John Kelly fell through.
The high-profile hiring search comes at a pivotal time as the president
looks to prepare his White House for the twin challenges of securing his
re-election and fending off inquiries once Democrats gain control of the House
Trump's top pick for the job, Nick Ayers, is out of the running and Trump is
now soliciting input on at least four individuals, including Office of
Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the
chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Ayers, who is chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was seen as the
favorite for the job when Trump announced Saturday that Kelly would leave
around year's end. But a White House official said Sunday that Trump and Ayers
could not reach agreement on Ayers' length of service and that he would instead
assist the president from outside the administration. The officials spoke on
condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive personnel matters.
Ayers confirmed the decision in a tweet Sunday, thanking Trump and Pence for
giving him the opportunity to work in the White House. "I will be departing at
the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause," he
Trump offered his own take on the development: "I am in the process of
interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of
Staff. Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a
spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda. I will be making a
Even senior White House officials were caught off guard Sunday, most having
believed the Ayers move was a done deal. No obvious successor to Kelly was in
sight and there was some fretting that Trump may not be able to fill the job by
the time Kelly leaves.
Ayers and Trump had discussed the job for months, making the breakdown
Sunday all the more surprising. Trump said Saturday that he expected to
announce a replacement for Kelly in a day or two. But with Ayers no longer
waiting in the wings, Trump may now take until the end of the year, according
to a person familiar with the president's thinking.
Mulvaney was not interested in becoming chief of staff, according to a
person close to him who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mulvaney has been
saying for almost two months now that he would be more interested in becoming
commerce or treasury secretary if that would be helpful to the president, the
Also among those thought to be in the mix were Treasury Secretary Steve
Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who said in a CBS
interview that he hadn't spoken to anyone at the White House about the job and
was "entirely focused" on his position. A person familiar with Mnuchin's
thinking said he, too, was happy with his work at Treasury and had not sought
the job of chief of staff.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Trump's former deputy campaign
manager, David Bossie, were also among the names being floated by some close to
the White House.
Trump's administration has set records for staff turnover, and he has often
struggled to attract experienced political professionals, a challenge that has
grown more difficult by the upcoming threat of costly Democratic oversight
investigations and an uncertain political environment.
In any administration, the role of White House chief of staff is split
between the responsibilities of supervising the White House and managing the
man sitting in the Oval Office. Striking that balance in the turbulent times of
Trump has bedeviled both Kelly and his predecessor, Reince Priebus, and will be
the defining challenge for whomever is selected next.
Kelly, whose last day on the job is set to be Jan. 2, had been credited with
imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his
post as homeland security secretary. But his iron fist also alienated some
longtime Trump allies, and over time he grew increasingly isolated.
Trump wants his next chief of staff to hold the job through the 2020
election, the officials said. Ayers, who has young triplets, had long planned
to leave the administration at the end of the year and had only agreed to serve
in an interim basis through next spring.
Ayers had earned the backing of the president's influential daughter and
son-in-law, White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, but was viewed
warily by other aides.
Ayers will run a pro-Trump super PAC, according to a person familiar with
his plans who was not authorized to discuss them by name.
Pence's deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, is expected to assume Ayers'
role for the vice president.