President Trump responds to media speculation over replacement for departing Chief of Staff John Kelly

December 10, 2018

President Trump responds to media speculation over replacement for departing Chief of Staff John Kelly Gage Skidmore / CCL

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is headed out the door, but despite media speculation on the contrary, President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Sunday that he hasn’t selected a replacement for Kelly yet.

Trump searches for new chief of staff

The New York Times reported earlier on Sunday that Trump had asked Nick Ayers, the chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, to take over for Kelly, but the Times alleged that Ayers turned down the job.

That may be because Ayers, like Kelly, plans on leaving his current post. Friends told the Times that the 36-year-old father of three is returning to his home state of Georgia with his family at the end of this year.

Still, Trump maintains that he is still “in the process of interviewing” candidates and that no decision has been made. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t think highly of Ayers, whom he called “a spectacular person” and for whom top adviser Kellyanne Conway had nothing but compliments over the weekend.

“[Ayers’] unique qualification was that he had been doing the same job for the vice president,” Conway said. But, she added, “those of us with young kids very well understand the personal decision he made.”

Ayers himself took to Twitter on Sunday to thank Trump and Pence and to announce his impending departure.

Contenders include politicians, advisers

While some maintain that Ayers was the president’s top choice, other contenders have risen to the top of the leaderboard since Trump announced he was still searching for the right person to do the job.

Favorites for the role reportedly include Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who leads the House Freedom Caucus; Steve Mnuchin, the president’s Treasury secretary; Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director; and Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general.

“Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who as a onetime United States attorney could help Mr. Trump in an impeachment fight, was also being mentioned,” the Times reported. The Times also suggested that U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer may be in the running.

The White House chief of staff, a person whose official title includes “assistant to the president,” is often thought of as the “gatekeeper” to the Oval Office; it is he — the role has not yet been held by a woman — who decides what issues the president will tackle each and every day. As such an important role, it’s no wonder that President Trump wants to take his time choosing someone who is truly up for the task.


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Robert Ayers

Robert Ayers is a writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University and a JD from the University of Connecticut.