Mulvaney on government spending: 'At least I'm losing at the very highest levels'

Mulvaney on government spending: 'At least I'm losing at the very highest levels'
© Greg Nash

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump telling aides to look at potential spending cuts if he wins reelection: report Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Trump says Democrats shouldn't use debt ceiling as leverage MORE conceded the Trump administration has not always delivered on its promise to slash the size of government, but compared himself favorably to his predecessor, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.

In an interview with The Atlantic published Thursday, the former Tea Party Republican congressman said he knows the administration is “spending a bunch of money on stuff we’re not supposed to” and said he gets grief about it from some of his former colleagues who have “accused me of ‘losing.’ ”

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“Yeah, but at least I’m losing at the very highest levels,” Mulvaney said, responding to remarks from House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-N.C.) who once accused him of "losing" after the Trump administration signed a sweeping spending package.

The national debt hit a record $22 trillion earlier this year, in part due to falling tax revenue under President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE’s tax law. And Congress has virtually ignored Trump’s budgets that call for large cuts in domestic spending and certain foreign assistance.

Mulvaney said he has nonetheless found success in the White House by loosening some of the strict rules imposed by Kelly, the retired Marine Corps general who left his post as chief of staff in December after a rocky tenure.

“When I got here, morale wasn’t what it needed to be,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think I’m telling any secrets — John hated the job. And let everybody know.”

Kelly famously groused about the job of serving as Trump’s chief of staff, both publicly and privately, even as he acknowledged it was an important duty.

“It was the least enjoyable job I’ve ever had,” he said last month during a speech at Duke University. “But it was the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Mulvaney brushed off the fact he is still serving in an acting capacity, saying of Trump “he could fire any of us tomorrow. So what difference does it make if you’re ‘acting’ or ‘permanent’?”