Conservative leader Meadows will not be White House chief of staff

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: Trump vows to veto bills expanding abortion rights | Abortion foes march into divided Washington | Medicaid work requirements approved in Arizona Abortion foes march into divided Washington McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-N.C.) is out of the running as a candidate to become President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE's next chief of staff, a White House official said on Wednesday.

The president discussed the position with the outgoing House Freedom Caucus chairman but told him he needs him to remain in Congress to continue to defend the administration, according to the official, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

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Meadows later released a statement confirming the decision, saying that he is “fully committed” to continuing his service in the House.

“I’ve had the best job in the world, representing the people of western North Carolina and working alongside President Trump these last two years to give the forgotten men and women of America a voice in their government,” he said. “I know the president has a long list of tremendous candidates for his next chief of staff, and whomever it is will have my total support moving forward.”

Meadows, 59, was one of the top contenders to succeed John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who is leaving the chief of staff job at year's end.

The North Carolina lawmaker is a staunch Trump ally and was one of the few candidates to publicly express interest in the job. Several House conservatives threw their support behind Meadows, something sources said they did at his behest.

“You don’t answer a question before it’s asked, but I can say this that because it’s an honor, certainly I’m favorably inclined to at least have a discussion with the president,” Meadows said Monday on Fox News when asked if he would accept the job.

But that advocacy did not appear to sway Trump, who will now continue his search for his third White House chief of staff.

Other people believed to be under consideration include former Trump campaign adviser David Bossie, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Pompeo in Iraq for unannounced visit GOP commissioner on federal energy panel dies MORE, according to multiple reports.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts The case for Russia sanctions Treasury issues final rules on key part of Trump's tax law MORE and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Trump teases 'major announcement' Saturday on shutdown | Fight with Dems intensifies | Pelosi accuses Trump of leaking trip to Afghanistan | Mnuchin refuses to testify on shutdown impacts The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE have also been mentioned as possible candidates, but both men have indicated they are not interested in the job.

The president has been soliciting advice from White House advisers and outside allies on the search, which was upended over the weekend when vice presidential chief of staff Nick Ayers turned down the job.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told reporters he shared his advice with Trump while visiting the White House to view Christmas decorations. He declined to say whom, if anybody, he recommended to the president. 

While a cloud of uncertainty hovers over the search, Trump has publicly expressed confidence he will easily be able to find a new top aide.

He told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that he is considering between 10 and 12 candidates for the job, but stressed he is in no rush to choose somebody.

“I have at least 10, 12 — 12 people that want it badly,” Trump said. “Everybody wants it. Who doesn't want to be one of the top few people in Washington, D.C.?”

The Wall Street Journal was first to report Meadows would not get the job.

Behind closed doors, Trump was reportedly frustrated with Ayers's decision to turn down the job after they could not come to an agreement over the length of his service. Officials said Ayers plans to return with his family to his home state of Georgia and work for a pro-Trump super PAC.

White House officials have expressed hope that Trump will settle on a replacement by month's end.

The next chief of staff will face a tall task of leading the White House through the political minefield of divided government and an intensifying Russia investigation and up to the 2020 presidential election.

Trump hired Kelly in July 2017 to impose order on a chaotic White House, but the retired Marine Corps general frustrated Trump with his management style and struggled to navigate the fractious West Wing.

The president is said to be searching for a chief of staff with greater political experience than Kelly, who spent his career in the military before joining the administration, and somebody who is a like-minded ally.

Updated at 5:23 p.m.