President Donald Trump is considering several candidates to replace outgoing White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly after announcing his departure Saturday.
Multiple sources familiar with the process tell The Daily Caller that these candidates include House Freedom Caucus (HFC) Chairman Mark Meadows, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and longtime GOP financier Wayne Berman.
Trump has developed strong working relationships with Lighthizer, Mulvaney and Mnuchin through his day-to-day work.
The president is said to deeply respect Lighthizer’s working knowledge of trade issues and recently elevated him to chief negotiating position with the Chinese government. Mulvaney has also impressed the president with his work at OMB, particularly with his presentations on the need for executive branch reformation.
The president has also developed a strong working relationship with Meadows in his position as the HFC chairman. Meadows has also served as a forceful critic of special counsel Robert Mueller and has called for continued inquiry into the past FBI probe of Hillary Clinton.
Berman, a longtime GOP denizen, was also floated for chief of staff after the departure from the role by Reince Preibus.
Trump announced Kelly’s departure Saturday after intense media speculation, indicating at the time that he would be making the succession announcement in the coming days. Sources familiar with the situation at the time expected that vice presidential chief of staff Nick Ayers would assume the position, but he has since bowed out from consideration. (RELATED: Liberal Commentator Calls John Kelly A ‘Coward’)
No particular candidate is said to be leading the process at the moment, with many not even expecting serious consideration before Ayers’ departure. Sources close to the candidates noted that the job was almost completely secured by Ayers. They noted that his decision to leave the administration has thrown the process into chaos.
Ayers had discussed taking the job with Trump for months and the White House was fully prepared for him to take the helm of the West Wing. Ayers’ presumptive ascension to the role was disrupted over the weekend, however, after he could not give Trump a pledge to stay within the role for the duration of his presidential term.
The vice presidential chief of staff instead will depart the administration and is expected to work for the outside pro-Trump group America First.
Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House. I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause. ???????? #Georgia
— Nick Ayers (@nick_ayers) December 9, 2018
Trump is particularly frustrated with the situation, a source familiar with the president’s thinking told TheDC. In a Sunday morning tweet, the president sought to distance himself from reports that he was only considering Ayers.
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 decision soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2018