The most important thing I learned about Mark Meadows when we discussed President Trump at the Capitol Hill Club in the fall of 2017 was the Congressman vehemently supported his agenda. He’s a natural politician, and not in a bad way. He doesn’t have to try hard to seem genuine, nor do his stark answers ever require backtracking. He’s careful with his chosen words even when he’s being aggressive about a particular subject. It’s a trait that cannot be fabricated. It comes with believing what you’re saying.
These skills that have become embedded components of his personality are why he’d be the perfect Chief of Staff for President Trump. There’s nothing wrong with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney ideologically, but he doesn’t have the command of convoluted situations required of the top guy just outside of the Oval Office. I supported his selection when he replaced John Kelly almost a year ago, but he’s just not suited for the job under a fast-moving boss like President Trump. He knows his stuff and is extremely likable, but a Trump Chief of Staff needs full command of the situation even when it changes rapidly.
I believe Mulvaney’s out. He probably knows it, but he might not. If he wasn’t told, he may have gotten a clue when Meadows announced he’s not seeking reelection, a move done just before the filing deadline to allow someone strong to replace him in his deep-red North Carolina district. But I can’t imagine he’s done with politics just yet. He’s just too good at it, which is why the announcement came as a shock until rumors started surfacing that he’s joining the Trump administration. Most assumed that meant hopping in after the President wins reelection, but I believe the President wants and needs him sooner rather than later.
A hint about the move may have been telegraphed with the selection of Anthony Ornato as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. It’s a role that reports directly to the White House Chief of Staff, but Mulvaney wasn’t involved in the hiring. It’s conspicuous that he wouldn’t be in on the hiring of someone who was going to work for him… unless the relationship wasn’t going to be a long one.
The holdup, of course, is impeachment. Not only is Mulvaney knee-deep in it, he’s even on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s list of request witnesses to testify. Mulvaney famously told the press to “get over it,” referring to quid pro quo which he said happened all the time in politics. That’s absolutely true. But the optics were horrible and some have said he lost the President’s confidence then and there. For him to leave while impeachment is still in play would be even worse optics than his gaffe. That’s why he’s still there.
When the President is acquitted or the Articles of Impeachment are dismissed, there will be a short celebration period. When that’s done after two weeks or less, the President will announce his move. He’ll thank Mulvaney for his service, say he’s going to continue to lead the Office of Management and Budget (he’s currently OMB Director even though he’s also acting Chief of Staff), and announce Meadows as the new Chief of Staff in the same Twitter thread.
Meadows is a campaign asset, which is why I believe the move will be made as quickly as possible. He’s great in front of the camera and handles tough questions like a seasoned press secretary. Behind the scenes, he’ll be as good as Mulvaney was at keeping the team’s morale high, but he’ll add an organizational element that Mulvaney was never allowed to have. Meadows has had the President’s ear from day one. Mulvaney never really had it due mostly to his personality. He wasn’t one who needed to be knocking on the Oval Office door with everything that came to his attention. That served him well at times, but also didn’t give him an opportunity to truly become the President’s right-hand man.
All of this is just speculation, of course, but the pieces fit too neatly together and the timing is too perfect for it to all be a big coincidence. Meadows will be the next Chief of Staff as soon as we get the impeachment debacle behind us.
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