‘That’s what he wants’: Republicans see Mark Meadows angling for White House chief of staff


There is growing talk on Capitol Hill that Mark Meadows is angling to become the next White House chief of staff amid signs President Trump has been unhappy with the current acting holder of the position, Mick Mulvaney.

The conservative Republican congressman in recent days accompanied Trump to New York to attend a mixed martial arts fight and then joined the president a couple of days later for a campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky — trips and locales with no connection to the Republican congressman’s western North Carolina House district.

Meadows, like Trump, was a real estate developer before entering politics and has played a key role in defending the president against impeachment.

Trump recently declined in a Washington Examiner interview to say he was happy with Mulvaney’s performance. This, as well as the trips and Meadows’s frequent presence in the White House, is leading some Republican aides and lawmakers in the House to believe the congressman is auditioning to become chief of staff.

“Of course that’s what he wants,” a Republican congressman told the Washington Examiner, requesting anonymity in order to speak candidly.

At least one White House aide shares that opinion.

After Meadows interrupted an MSNBC reporter on live television to reject suggestions that Republicans are having a hard time defending Trump against the Democratic allegations of abuse of power that form the basis for impeachment, one Mulvaney ally texted the Washington Examiner with the clip of Meadows on MSNBC, along with a message that read, “Still interviewing for the job.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham declined to comment for this story.

Meadows said there is nothing out of the ordinary to draw from the extra time he has been spending with the commander in chief.

“He is not feeling me out for chief of staff,” the congressman said this week. Meadows noted he was not scheduled to travel with Trump this weekend to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the president is expected to attend the Alabama-LSU college football game.

Meadows, 60, is playing a critical role in the House Republican effort to undermine the Democratic case for impeachment, which centers around a telephone conversation Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The president asked Zelensky to open an investigation into Joe Biden, the former vice president, and his son, Hunter Biden. Democrats charge that Trump threatened to withhold U.S. military aid from Kyiv unless Zelensky complied.

House Democrats are holding closed-door depositions of current and former officials to investigate those allegations, with Meadows a constant presence inside the hearings, defending Trump and attempting to poke holes in the testimony of witnesses unfriendly to the president. Meadows also is defending Trump in sometimes contentious media interviews, doing his best to soften the impact of publicly available deposition transcripts that, so far, are buttressing the Democrats’ case for impeachment.

“He’s one of the president’s favorite members of the House and will be extremely important as this impeachment witch hunt moves forward,” said Jason Miller, a Republican operative who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Given that, Republican insiders suspect that if Meadows does get the White House chief of staff post, it wouldn’t become his until after the likely Senate trial concludes early next year. Meanwhile, Meadows is in a position to offer Trump a detailed, inside account of the unfolding impeachment proceedings.

Meadows, according to Republican sources, was briefly considered in the past as a possible candidate for the position.

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