After a week of drama over the question of who would replace John Kelly as the White House chief of staff, Donald Trump has announced that he will name Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“I am pleased to announce that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction,” Trump said in a tweet Friday afternoon. “Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration…I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! John will be staying until the end of the year. He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!”
It’s unclear what exactly Trump means by “acting” chief of staff. The position is not a Senate-approved one, and the president can therefore appoint whoever he wants on a permanent basis. The choice of words may signal his and Mulvaney’s understanding of the appointment as a short-term one, but, according to the Associated Press, Mulvaney’s term will be open-ended. According to NBC News, Mulvaney asked for the “acting” title, as he wanted to ensure an easy escape from the position if it became necessary.
On Sunday, news outlets reported that Nick Ayers, Mike Pence’s chief of staff, declined an offer from Trump, as he was unwilling to commit to two years in the job as the president demanded. According to CNN, Ayers had wanted to be an “acting” chief of staff, to take the position on an interim basis for a few months. Trump rejected that counterproposal.
Mulvaney, who also led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an body he once tried to eliminate, has long been a hardline conservative—he was elected to the House of Representatives as part of the Tea Party movement—and a fervent Trump supporter. In his role for the administration, he has worked to curtail regulations on financial institutions and, as budget director, slash the budget, particularly entitlement programs. (He once called cutting aid to the poor “compassionate.”)
Mulvaney will be the president’s third chief of staff in two years. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, was fired by Trump last week. Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, served for six months before leaving in July 2017. According to Bloomberg, OMB Deputy Director Russell Vought will replace Mulvaney as head of the office.
Just hours before the Mulvaney announcement, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was rumored to be up for the chief of staff job, took himself out of the running, joining Rep. Mark Meadows in doing so. The string of rejections by potential candidates for one of the most powerful jobs in politics appeared to underscore the image of chaos in the White House at a time when Trump is being investigated for his campaign’s ties to Russia and his own participation in hush payments to women who alleged affairs with him. According to NBC, when he tapped Mulvaney for the position, Trump was eager to put an end to a news cycle in which it was commonly observed that no one appeared to want the job.
Update, Dec. 14, 2018, at 7:25 p.m.: This post has been updated with reporting from NBC News.