Mick Mulvaney will take over as acting White House chief of staff after John Kelly departs at the end of the year, President Donald Trump announced Friday afternoon.
....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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 14, 2018
The news comes after a weeklong public drama over the chief of staff job. On Saturday, Trump announced that Kelly would exit the job at the end of the year, effectively pushing him out the door. The president reportedly intended to name Nick Ayers — a Republican operative then serving as Mike Pence’s chief of staff — to replace him.
But Trump couldn’t get Ayers to agree to a lengthy stint as chief — and Ayers turned him down and said he would leave the White House at the end of 2018. Various contenders have been floated and then taken out of contention over the past week — most notably Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). Finally, Trump put an end to the drama by picking Mulvaney, albeit with the caveat that he will only be “acting” chief.
It’s not unprecedented to have an acting White House chief of staff — President Obama put Pete Rouse in the job for a few months after Rahm Emanuel left in 2010. Rouse didn’t want the job permanently, but agreed to take the reins for a few months while Obama looked for a permanent successor. So the label at least appears to be a signal that Mulvaney might not be in the job for long, either.
Mick Mulvaney’s third Trump administration job
Mulvaney served six years as a member of Congress from South Carolina before Trump named him director of the Office of Management and Budget at the beginning of 2017. Then, oddly, Mulvaney got a second gig — he was appointed acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When the CFPB’s director stepped down, Trump invoked a little-known statute to give that gig to Mulvaney, who he knew and trusted, rather than the CFPB’s deputy.
Mulvaney was not a fan of consumer protection regulation generally or the CFPB in particular. He had previously called the bureau a “sick, sad joke.” He scaled back its investigatory and regulatory activities. He even did odd things like rearrange the letters in the agency’s acronym.
The Senate finally confirmed a CFPB successor — Kathleen Kraninger, who worked under Mulvaney at OMB — this month, reducing Mulvaney’s number of jobs back down to one. But the White House said Friday that though Mulvaney will “spend all of his time” doing the new chief of staff job, he will not resign as OMB director, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Alex Leary — keeping open the possibility that he’ll return to that post later.
It’s tough to know how much to read into Trump’s selection of Mulvaney without knowing how long the president intends him to have the job. Mulvaney, a staunch conservative, certainly contrasts with a choice like Chris Christie, a blue-state governor who may have been better-suited to dealing with a new Democratic House of Representatives.
However, the decision may have been made mainly out of personal chemistry (Trump is said to enjoy Mulvaney’s company, and they’ve golfed together) as a temporary solution while Trump searches for a permanent appointee.