Trump Fires Chief of Staff via Tweet

This is no way to run a railroad.

President Trump has his fourth White House Chief of Staff in a little more than three years.

WaPo (“Trump picks Mark Meadows to be new White House chief of staff“):

President Trump announced Friday that he has selected outgoing Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) as his next White House chief of staff, tapping one of his most stalwart congressional allies to run the White House as he navigates a global health crisis in a reelection year.

“I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one,” Trump tweeted shortly after arriving at his South Florida resort, where he is spending the weekend.

Meadows replaces acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who is being appointed the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland, Trump said in a follow-up tweet. The president thanked Mulvaney for “having served the administration so well.” The envoy position has been vacant under the Trump presidency.

Mulvaney stepped into the role in an acting capacity in early January 2019 on the departure of John F. Kelly. Meadows will be Trump’s fourth White House chief of staff, after Mulvaney, Kelly and Reince Priebus.

Meadows, a four-term lawmaker, announced in December that he would not run for reelection and hinted in his statement that he would join either the administration or Trump’s 2020 campaign.

The former leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus made his mark on Capitol Hill as a frequent thorn in the side of GOP House speakers while developing a close relationship with the president, becoming one of his most fervent defenders.

Trump often calls Meadows early in the morning and late at night, after growing distrustful of House Republican leadership and developing an appreciation of Meadows’s appearances on cable television.

Mulvaney was given advance notice of the tweet, a senior White House official said, but did not learn about the job change until the president had already offered Meadows the job.

Mulvaney’s departure is likely to mean broad changes in the West Wing.

He also had been a member of Congress and of the Freedom Caucus before joining the administration, and he installed in government posts a number of die-hard loyalists and conservatives who often bragged about getting things done below the radar.

Some of those aides, particularly his principal deputy, Emma Doyle, had already seen their responsibilities shrink in recent months. Meadows has developed close ties with senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who advocated for putting him in the post.

Mulvaney had also served as the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and as the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Russ Vought is now the acting OMB chief and could be nominated for the permanent post, according to two White House officials.

NPR (“Mick Mulvaney Out, Mark Meadows In As White House Chief Of Staff“) adds:

Now on his fourth White House chief of staff, Trump has overseen a remarkable level of turnover in a White House that has been defined by staff shakeups and firings by tweet.

Meadows has been a frequent guest at White House events, and has often traveled with Trump on Air Force One.

“It’s an honor to be selected by President Trump to serve alongside him and his team,” Meadows said in a statement. “This president and his administration have a long list of incredible victories they’ve delivered to the country during this first term, with the best yet to come.”

Meadows also paid tribute to Mulvaney, calling him “smart, principled, and as tough a fighter you’ll find in Washington, D.C.” and said Mulvaney “did a great job leading the President’s team through a tremendous period of accomplishment.”

Trump had picked Mulvaney as his acting chief of staff on December 14, 2018, after his first choice to replace John Kelly backed out of the job. Unlike Kelly, a former Marine general, Mulvaney took a more hands-off approach in managing the White House and the various competing factions within it.

Like many Trump officials, Mulvaney labored with an “acting” label in front of his title. Trump insisted he preferred it that way.

“I like having non-permanent, to a certain extent,” Trump said last September. “It gives me more flexibility. I like having acting. I like the word ‘acting,’ because it gives me great flexibility.”

Trump’s announcement of Meadows’ appointment did not include the “acting” qualifier.

The President is entitled to have the personal staff he desires and he has struggled to find people with unquestioned loyalty. But this has meant either people who are incompetent at their jobs or who get things done surreptitiously despite the President they ostensibly serve.

The Chief of Staff job is an odd one, in that it is arguably the second-most powerful job in the administration, behind only the President himself. The main task is to serve as a gatekeeper between the staff, including cabinet secretaries, and the President, thereby protecting his most precious asset: time. How one does that in a “hands-off” manner is beyond me.

And, while I can understand the notion that “Acting” cabinet secretaries might provide “flexibility”—via a quasi-Constitutional bypassing of the Senate confirmation process—there is no obvious value to an “Acting” Chief of Staff. The President can fire them at any point and replace them with anyone they want with no one’s permission. The only thing an “Acting” title does in that instance is to signal that the person does not have the President’s trust and therefore diminish his ability to do his job.

It’s no way to run a railroad.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    If these people haven’t learned by now that loyalty is a one way street with Trump, then I have zero sympathy for the entire lot.

    11
  2. Kathy says:

    I don’t know. The orange Twit firing someone with a Tweet seems as newsworthy as the discovery of water in the ocean.

    7
  3. Polimom says:

    Mulvaney was given advance notice of the tweet, a senior White House official said, but did not learn about the job change until the president had already offered Meadows the job.

    Advance notice of the tweet. LOL!!!! Ahhhh, that Trump. SUCH a class act. (gah!)

    2
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The President is entitled to have the personal staff he desires and he has struggled to find people with unquestioned loyalty.

    That’s a funny way to spell “subservience”. Anybody with true loyalty and wanting nothing but the best for him would tell him to “sit down, shut up, sit on your hands, do what your told, knock it off,” etc etc.

    5
  5. J-Dub says:

    Look on the bright side. Nobody has gotten more douchebags out of Congress than Donald Trump.

    11
  6. J-Dub says:

    He’s still the OMB Director. Is he going to do that from N. Ireland? What kind of job is that anyway? It’s not even a country.

    3
  7. Lounsbury says:

    The more organizational instability and the more obvious signaling (to the inside apparat of the Republican Party) of his gross incompetence the better. It helps undermine. Anything contributing to losing a few hundred votes, a bit less effort, to ensure November he is out, is good.

    2
  8. Jax says:

    @J-Dub: He’s been replaced in that job, too, from what I understand.

    1
  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jax: And so ends the ignominious political career of one Mick Mulvaney. Another thing trump killed with his reverse Midas touch.

    2
  10. Gustopher says:

    Mick M-something, Mark M-something… what’s the difference?

    1
  11. al Ameda says:

    @Scott:

    If these people haven’t learned by now that loyalty is a one way street with Trump, then I have zero sympathy for the entire lot.

    Each and every one of these people VOLUNTARILY signed on to be in service of-and-to the radical conservative project to pack the courts and hollow-out the federal government. I’m sure that most of these people consider it an honor to serve Trump and wear their firing as a souvenir tee-shirt of the revolution.

    5
  12. dazedandconfused says:

    I can imagine the “Acting” title could be at the insistence of many folks who are capable of handling the COS position but are quite unsure they wish to stay long. Trump is one of those folks most intelligent people close-associate with only if there is an exit door kept ajar and within sprinting distance.

    2
  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Anyone so devoid of pride or morality as to willingly work for Trump is incapable of being a White House Chief of Staff. We’re seeing the inevitable trifecta of authoritarianism: lies, corruption, and incompetence.

    If you’ve ever wondered how a Mugabe or a Maduro manages to maintain support despite their utter failure to perform, may I present: Cult45. A third or more of Americans, despite two centuries of experience with democracy, are no more capable of self-government than their counterparts in Venezuela or Zimbabwe.

    6
  14. Kylopod says:

    This gives new meaning to James Carville’s dictum, “Once you’re asked, you’re fucked.”

    1
  15. dazedandconfused says:

    @J-Dub:

    What kind of job is that anyway? It’s not even a country.

    It’s a job that keeps his mouth mostly subject to the dictates of the US government.