Mulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE is finding himself on shaky ground following a pair of public appearances that produced more problems than solutions for his boss, President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE.

The former South Carolina congressman’s ouster is not imminent, according to those familiar with his standing with the president, but he has drawn the ire of Trump’s allies.

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Trump did not respond to shouted questions about his chief of staff’s fate during a Cabinet meeting on Monday. But Mulvaney got a warm reception during a senior staff meeting on Monday morning and sources say many inside the White House are still satisfied with him.

"Mick Mulvaney’s standing in the White House has not changed. He is still the Acting Chief of Staff and has the President’s confidence,"  White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in an email.

One source familiar with the mood internally said, "A lot of folks are still really happy with Mick."

But frustration has swelled over some of his public statements that put the White House and its Republican allies in a difficult position in recent days. 

Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading the administration’s legal defense against impeachment, are also said to be feuding. 

The firestorm began Thursday when Mulvaney took to the White House briefing room to announce Trump National Doral would host the Group of Seven (G-7) summit next year. He then took questions from reporters about the ongoing impeachment inquiry focused on the president’s request for Ukraine to investigate Joe BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE.

Mulvaney said security aid to Ukraine was dependent partly on the country investigating a conspiracy theory undermining the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. 

Given multiple chances to clarify, he instead repeated that there were three reasons for holding up the aid while insisting that the Bidens were not involved.

 “I have news for everybody: Get over it,” Mulvaney said. “There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

Within a few hours, Mulvaney issued a statement claiming he had not said what he told reporters and denying the existence of any quid pro quo with Ukraine.

Trump then reversed his decision to host the G-7 at Doral late Saturday, undermining the main reason his chief of staff had faced the press in the first place.

Mulvaney attempted to do damage control with an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” but struggled to clean up his remarks without causing new headaches. 

Mulvaney said Trump “still considers himself to be in the hospitality business,” a comment that raised eyebrows considering the widespread skepticism about the president’s connections to his business.

Mulvaney described two conditions for holding up aid after he had listed three during the press briefing. Anchor Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceAnything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why Biden walks fine line with Fox News Aides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book MORE played video clips that contradicted Mulvaney’s defenses of his Ukraine remarks, undercutting his attempted defenses at times. 

Asked if he had offered to resign over last week’s briefing, Mulvaney said he had not.

“Absolutely, positively not. I’m very happy working there. Did I have the perfect press conference? No,” Mulvaney said. 

Trump has seemed to shy away from questions about his chief of staff in recent days. Trump said he had confidence in Mulvaney shortly after his press conference Thursday, and he told reporters Friday that Mulvaney had “clarified” the issue before pivoting to a discussion about his recent trip to Texas and Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. 

There has been little public support for Mulvaney from Trump allies and other members of the administration. 

“I think it’s probably somebody who didn’t know what they were talking about,” Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection MORE (R-Iowa) said Monday.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE opted not to come to Mulvaney’s defense during his own television appearance on Sunday.

“I will leave to the chief of staff to explain what it is he said and what he intended,” Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The Justice Department and Trump’s lawyer Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - New video of riot unnerves many senators Trump legal switch hints at larger problems Trump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates MORE also sought to distance themselves from Mulvaney’s remarks last week. 

Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityPsaki says Biden admin 'needs' Fox News in order to fight vaccine misinformation Ronny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign Biden walks fine line with Fox News MORE called Mulvaney “dumb,” and Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonHas Trump beaten the system? Trump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book To understand the history wars, follow the paper trail MORE, Trump’s former chief strategist, told the New York Post he didn’t feel “comfortable” when he saw Mulvaney and lamented the lack of coordination among those in the White House on impeachment messaging.

Mulvaney has served as chief of staff for 10 months without having the “acting” qualifier removed from his title, and there have been rumors of friction with Trump at times during his tenure.

But there is skepticism that his latest public gaffes will lead to his firing in the immediate future.

Mulvaney has some built-in advantages toward keeping his job, including his closeness to the president and the dearth of replacement candidates willing to take on the job.

Mulvaney is one of a handful of close confidantes Trump has in the top echelons of his White House staff. He has been part of the Cabinet since early 2017, first as director of the Office of Management and Budget and now as acting chief of staff.

The president tapped him for the role last December following a search to replace John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE that yielded several candidates who publicly turned down the job. It’s unlikely that any of those candidates — Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsTrump takes two punches from GOP Watchdog urges Justice to probe Trump, Meadows for attempting to 'weaponize' DOJ Washington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows for testimony on Jan. 6 MORE (R-N.C.), former New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieChris Christie: Unvaccinated people don't want to be 'indoctrinated' by government Former lieutenant governor of New Jersey leaves GOP Half of states now restrict conversion therapy for LGBTQ kids MORE or Nick Ayers, a former aide to Vice President Pence — would be interested this time around either.

Both of Mulvaney’s predecessors — Kelly and former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Biden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet MORE — exited after tumultuous tenures in the Trump White House.

 “Being chief of staff is a very difficult position, and I don’t think you want to be in the business of having four chiefs of staff in less than three years,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign adviser. “At this point the president is his own chief of staff anyway.”

Mulvaney’s departure would further complicate an already ineffective White House strategy of blocking current and former administration officials from cooperating with House Democrats in their impeachment inquiry.

The White House would have a difficult time claiming executive privilege over Mulvaney’s testimony if he were fired. As one of the president’s closest aides and someone involved in the Ukraine dealings, Mulvaney would prove a damaging witness.

“I’m sure he has his own detractors for whatever reason and those people love to pile on,” Nunberg said. “This is not the time to pile and have a public fight and dispute. This impeachment inquiry is not going anywhere. You will only make it worse.”

Jordain Carney contributed