Trump says he's down to five candidates for chief of staff

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE said Thursday he has narrowed down his list of candidates for White House chief of staff to five finalists.

The president made the revelation one day after Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSanders, socialism emerge as top targets at CPAC Trump upends controversial surveillance fight House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid MORE (R-N.C.), recently thought to be one of the top contenders, was taken out of the running.

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“We are interviewing people now for chief of staff,” Trump said during a meeting at the White House with governors-elect.

Trump said the remaining contenders are “mostly well known” and are “terrific people.” 

According to Trump’s account, the number of people under consideration for the job has fallen dramatically in the past 48 hours. Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he was deciding between 10 and 12 people.

White House officials say Trump is expected to choose a new top aide by year’s end, when John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE plans to leave his post.

The process was upended last weekend when Trump's top choice for the job, Vice President Pence's chief of staff Nick Ayers, turned it down.

People now believed to be under consideration include former Trump campaign adviser David Bossie, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryTop National Security Council aide moved to Energy Department role Overnight Energy: Green groups to sue over Trump rollback of Obama water rules | GOP climate plan faces pushback from right | Bezos launches B climate initiative Rick Perry to rejoin dental insurance company as chief strategy officer MORE, according to multiple reports.

Bossie and former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiRod Blagojevich joins app where people can pay for personalized video message The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Trump campaign chief relocating to Washington: report MORE, who recently co-authored a book together, are expected to meet with the president on Friday at the White House.

In an interview earlier Thursday with Fox News, Trump said he wants a chief of staff who is “strong” and “thinks like I do."

The next chief of staff faces a tough task in navigating the White House through divided government starting next month and an intensifying Russia investigation, as well as the period leading up to Trump’s reelection campaign in 2020.

He or she will be Trump’s third chief of staff in roughly two years, a record level of turnover indicative of the high rate of departures that has plagued the West Wing.