Conservative leader Meadows will not be White House chief of staff

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return Overnight Health Care: Trump downplaying of COVID-19 sparks new criticism of response Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response MORE (R-N.C.) is out of the running as a candidate to become President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' 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 PerryRick PerryTexas cities say state is making pandemic worse Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Ernest Moniz Trump issues executive order to protect power grid from attack MORE, according to multiple reports.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinFive takeaways from PPP loan data On The Money: Trump administration releases PPP loan data | Congress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits | McConnell opens door to direct payments in next coronavirus bill 40 Trump-connected lobbyists secured over B in coronavirus relief for clients: report MORE and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMulvaney: Trump faces difficulty if 2020 election becomes 'referendum' on him Consumer bureau revokes payday lending restrictions Supreme Court ruling could unleash new legal challenges to consumer bureau 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.