President Donald Trump pardons "Peas" from South Dakota at the National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS

Trump looking at several candidates for new chief of staff

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.

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 next year.

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 favourite 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 said.

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 decision soon!”

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 person said.

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.

Read more: Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met Russian, offering ‘political synergy,’ U.S. says

Read more: Out with the old: Trump to kill old NAFTA to push Congress to approve USMCA

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.

___

Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin And Catherine Lucey, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Abbotsford Time Lapse 2020

YouTube user posts video showing time lapse of several Abbotsford locations

Abbotsford resident receives award from B.C. Historical Federation

Bill Glasgow honoured for work on British Columbia History magazine

VIDEO: #FreeThemAll group protests for prisoner rights in Abbotsford

About 20 participate in car demonstration outside of Matsqui Institution on Sunday

Abbotsford Christian’s Meinen named 2A all-star

Zach Meinen named to provincial all-star squad for 2019-20

Abbotsford football star Samwel Uko dies at age 20

Panthers star running back dies on May 21, cause of death not yet known

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

20 dead in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

There were two new cases detected, according to the Lodge’s update

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

UPDATE: One person dead, two in critical condition after Highway 1 collision in Langley

A man and woman were taken to hospital in critical condition

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

Most Read