WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday abruptly named Mick Mulvaney, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as White House chief of staff, elevating a conservative ideologue with congressional experience to steer his administration through a treacherous phase.

Mulvaney replaces John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general whom Trump ousted as chief of staff last week, capping the president’s extraordinary week-long public search for his third chief of staff in two years.

“I am pleased to announce that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration.”

Trump added, “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!”

Trump selected Mulvaney both because of the relationship the two men have forged during the first two years of the administration and because of Mulvaney’s experience in Congress, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters only on the condition of anonymity.

“He got picked because the president liked him,” the official said. “They get along.”


Mulvaney, a frequent visitor to the Oval Office, met Friday with Trump to discuss the budget and a potential government shutdown, the official said, adding that Mulvaney knew he would be named acting chief of staff before Trump fired off his tweet.


Mulvaney will manage a White House under siege. Democrats will take the House majority in January and are promising a series of oversight investigations, including into alleged corruption in the administration. Meanwhile, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation has been intensifying, while a separate investigation by federal prosecutors in New York that involves illegal hush-money payments to women who alleged affairs with Trump is ongoing.

Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, is one of the more ideologically conservative members of Trump’s Cabinet. He was elected to the House in 2010 as a member of the tea party movement and was known for his professed support of fiscal conservatism.

The senior administration official said there was “no time limit” for Mulvaney’s appointment, explaining that he was named in an acting capacity “because that’s what the president wants.”

Russell Vought, the deputy director of management and budget, will replace Mulvaney as OMB director, the official said.


Mulvaney, 51, has worn several hats in the Trump administration. He has served as budget director since the beginning, but also held the role of acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through much of the past year until his permanent successor, Kathleen Kraninger, was sworn in earlier this week.

Trump’s selection of Mulvaney comes after several candidates announced publicly that they were not interested in the position. After meeting with Trump for more than an hour at the White House residence on Thursday evening, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced at midday Friday that he had taken himself out of consideration.

Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, was offered the job by Trump last weekend but declined.


Mulvaney’s aides in recent days played down his chances of becoming chief of staff, saying he was not interested in the position.

But a senior White House official said Mulvaney was interested all along. Earlier this year, at a private dinner, Mulvaney told Trump that he wanted to be chief of staff. He vowed loyalty to the president’s family – including daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers – and said that he would not leak to reporters. He told Trump he would manage the staff, but not try to manage the president – an answer Trump liked, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation. At the time, Trump was deciding whether he should keep Kelly.


Mulvaney has developed a political profile of his own, making calls to donors and attending political breakfasts and lunches. He has often discussed his conversations with the president, according to a person who has attended events, and speaks of Trump with affection.

Trump grew deeply annoyed that his chief-of-staff search was being portrayed negatively in the media because top candidates were turning him down, according to a senior administration official.

“In the best of times, this is a thankless, all-consuming, brutal job,” said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff. “And under this president in particular, it’s almost mission impossible . . . Nobody wants the job because it’s impossible to perform given Trump’s personality and his belief that he can fly solo.”

Trump and Mulvaney hardly knew each other when the incoming president asked the firebrand House Republican to serve as his budget director. The pick was supposed to give the president credibility with the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Once in the White House, Mulvaney evolved quickly into a Trump-minded political figure, backing the president’s big-debt vision and accepting that many of the spending cuts he had spent years demanding as a congressman would never come to fruition under a Trump administration.

Mulvaney put out a budget proposal last year that fell short of eliminating the deficit – something once considered sacrilegious for members of the House Freedom Caucus, which he co-founded several years ago.


“He’s been gung-ho on everything the president has tried to do,” said Steve Bell, a former Republican staff director on the Senate Budget Committee. “He’s put out budgets that he probably knew were incoherent because the president asked him to. And he’ll probably do whatever the president asks him to do. On the positive side, he’ll be a very good liaison with House Republicans.”


But Mulvaney has virtually no credibility with congressional Democrats, many of whom scoffed when he helped Trump add $2 trillion to the debt over the past two years. Mulvaney had been part of the leading group of Republicans that called for severe spending cuts and deficit reduction, even helping lead a government shutdown in 2013.

“Based on Mulvaney’s history both at OMB and his closeness to Trump, I don’t see how this helps with Democrats or improves some sort of a bipartisan process on key issues,” said Jared Bernstein, who was chief economist to former vice president Joe Biden. “He’s a hardcore Trump supporter, far more than many others in the administration, which is saying a lot.”

Trump had temporarily installed Mulvaney at the CFPB, which was created during the Obama administration and which he sought to shrink by cutting its budget and stripping back its regulatory reach.

Perhaps helping Mulvaney’s prospects in the new job, he established himself as one of the most detail-oriented officials during key moments. He developed a deep knowledge of the intricacies of numerous government programs and was unashamed to push back on any criticism that the Trump administration attracted.


Mulvaney defended, for example, the White House’s decision to call for cuts on food assistance for the elderly and young children, claiming there was little evidence these programs worked.

As chief of staff, he will have to have an even broader mandate, dealing with both domestic and international issues, not to mention the proclivities of Trump, who likes to make phone calls on his own without being told who to speak to or when.

Mulvaney is well-liked within the White House among a number of factions. He was able to befriend both hard-line conservatives and more centrist advisers, striking up a friendship with former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn that helped them both navigate last year’s tax cut fight.

In Congress, Mulvaney was a vocal deficit hawk, but he oversaw a dramatic expansion of the deficit during his time at the White House – in part because of a big increase in spending as well last year’s tax cut law. Deficits are now approaching $1 trillion a year, an unusually large sum during an economic expansion.

Mulvaney has said he still favors reducing the deficit but that it is impossible with the current political dynamic in Washington, largely blaming Senate Democrats for failing to agree to any reductions.

But Trump himself has shown little interest in reducing the deficit, something Mulvaney has acknowledged. Last year, Mulvaney inquired whether Trump would be open to making cuts to Medicare or Social Security as part of a broader budget deal, and Trump rejected the idea.

Mulvaney has attracted scrutiny since joining the White House. He told a group of banking executives earlier this year that, while in Congress, he gave preference to lobbyists who contributed to him financially, according to a report in the New York Times.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: