Mulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyDemocrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings Impeachment guide: The 9 witnesses testifying this week The Hill's Morning Report - Week two of public impeachment testimony MORE is finding himself on shaky ground following a pair of public appearances that produced more problems than solutions for his boss, President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed 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.


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 BidenMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Democrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage 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) WallaceFox's Neil Cavuto rips into Trump over attacks on Chris Wallace's impeachment coverage Trump rips 'nasty' and 'obnoxious' Chris Wallace after he presses Scalise about impeachment Scalise: Louisiana defeat doesn't make Trump 'look bad' 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate aides met with tax return whistleblower: report Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse MORE (R-Iowa) said Monday.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDemocrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran 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 SekulowSupreme Court temporarily blocks House subpoena of Trump financial records Trump asks Supreme Court to block House Democrats' subpoena for financial records Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors MORE also sought to distance themselves from Mulvaney’s remarks last week. 

Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityFox's Neil Cavuto rips into Trump over attacks on Chris Wallace's impeachment coverage Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE called Mulvaney “dumb,” and Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonJury finds Stone guilty of lying to Congress Jury set to begin deliberating in Stone trial The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine 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 Randall MeadowsMichelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award Sondland testimony looms over impeachment hearings this week Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.C.), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie 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 PriebusFounder of veterans group says Trump Jr. can join the military if he 'really wants to understand what sacrifice is all about' Mulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes Politicon announces lineup including Comey, Hannity, Priebus 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