WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump is eyeing one of his closest legislative allies to be chief of staff, N.C. Congressman Mark Meadows representing the 11th District in the western part of the state. The list of candidates to replace outgoing chief General John Kelly is also said to include Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Trump on Tuesday disputed news reports that he’s having a hard time finding someone to take the position.
“Fake News has it purposely wrong,” he claimed on Twitter. “Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position. Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington?”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday that Kelly would be staying on “at least” through Jan. 2.
“There are people vying for it. There are people under consideration. And it’s a personal decision for the president,” she told reporters.
Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Monday he had not discussed the role with the president, but one congressional Republican said Meadows has told others he wants the job.
“It’s not been anything that I’ve been out advocating for,” Meadows said in an appearance on Fox News, but he added that “my life changed” after Trump’s top pick, Nick Ayers, vice president Mike Pence’s chief of staff, decided to pull out of the job.
“The President has a long list of qualified candidates, not just this congressman from North Carolina,” Meadows told reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill. “I know he’ll make the best selection for his administration and for the country.”
Trump is soliciting input on a long list of candidates and allies are pitching even more contenders, including former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Bossie, in an interview with Fox News Tuesday, did not deny interest in the job, but said he didn’t “foresee” Trump offering him the position. The job comes with a promise of high pressure and long hours as Trump’s day starts well before 5 a.m. and continues into the late night.
“In the best of times, it is relentless,” said Chris Whipple, an expert on chiefs of staff and author of “The Gatekeepers,” a book on the subject. “It’s 24/7. It’s thankless. You get all of the blame and none of the credit for everything that happens.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a potential contender, said he was “entirely focused” on his current position. A person familiar with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly made clear he, too, is happy in his current post.
While some of the reactions may be strategic posturing, there is also ample reason for any aspiring chief of staff to give pause to the notion of taking the job.
Trump has already burned through two chiefs of staff — Former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s departure from the White House was unceremoniously announced by tweet. Nearly 18 months later, Trump stepped on an orderly succession plan for Kelly, making a surprise Saturday announcement on the White House lawn that the retired general would be leaving by year’s end.
Trump has told confidants that he is eager to bring on someone he gets along with as his third chief of staff. His relationship with Kelly had long been frosty. Trump has told allies he wants someone he can chat with — trading gossip and complaining about media coverage — as well as someone more attuned politically.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.