Mick Mulvaney's job security looks strong following impeachment

Mick Mulvaney's job security looks strong following impeachment
© Getty

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneySupreme Court ruling could unleash new legal challenges to consumer bureau Bottom line White House goes through dizzying change in staff MORE is still standing in an administration known for its prodigious turnover rate.

Mulvaney’s job security has been a point of near constant speculation dating back to the fall, with multiple news outlets reporting that his exit was all but inevitable upon the conclusion of the impeachment process.

But Mulvaney last week passed his 400-day mark as the acting chief of staff, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE on Friday gave him a public vote of confidence, appearing to solidify his standing for the time being.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I have a great relationship with Mick,” Trump told reporters, dismissing a CNN story about his looming departure as “a false report.”

The White House declined to comment for this report.

Mulvaney is one of the few remaining Cabinet officials who has been with the Trump administration from the beginning. The Senate in February 2017 narrowly confirmed him to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a role he still technically holds since he is not the permanent chief of staff.

He is Trump’s third chief of staff in roughly three years. Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusMeadows joins White House facing reelection challenges Trump names Mark Meadows as new chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's job security looks strong following impeachment MORE lasted roughly six months on the job, and John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE served in the role for close to 1½ years.

The former South Carolina congressman has taken a different approach than his predecessors. He has largely left Trump to operate more freely and on his own instincts, avoiding some of the day-to-day battles that Priebus and Kelly struggled to win.

That strategy has led to criticism from some, including Kelly, who warned Trump against hiring a “yes man” to replace him. Mulvaney has also been unable to avoid some of the infighting that has defined the Trump White House, sparring at times with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, among others.

ADVERTISEMENT

Still, officials say Mulvaney has installed a number of his allies across the White House, has the support of conservative groups and has cultivated a good rapport with key players such as National Economic Council Director Larry KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan KudlowMORE and national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

“Mick understands the president is best when he can do the job the way he wants to do it. Mick’s job in a literal sense is chief of staff,” said Jonathan Slemrod, a consultant for Harbinger Strategies who worked with Mulvaney at OMB. “That means the staff of the White House, not the president. And I think he’s taken that to heart, and he’s had pretty good results, both for the White House but also for his job security.”

Mulvaney’s tenure as chief of staff has in some ways been defined by its impermanence. Trump announced on Dec. 14, 2018, that Mulvaney would serve as “acting chief of staff,” replacing Kelly after Nick Ayers, Chris Christie and other high-profile candidates took themselves out of consideration for the role.

The “acting” label remains attached to Mulvaney’s title more than a year later, something Trump says he prefers because it offers him “flexibility” with his staff. The qualifier has contributed to frequent chatter about Mulvaney’s job security.

Speculation intensified last fall following a particularly rough few days for the chief of staff.

At a now infamous on-camera press briefing in October, Mulvaney told reporters that security aid to Ukraine was dependent partly on Trump’s interest in the country investigating a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. He went on to tell critics to “get over” the influence politics has on foreign policy.

Mulvaney tried to walk back the comments in a fiery statement, but the damage was done and his briefing remarks were played repeatedly by Democrats during last month’s Senate impeachment trial.

Making matters worse, the purpose of the briefing was so Mulvaney could announce that Trump would host the 2020 Group of Seven summit at his Doral, Fla., property, a decision the president reversed days later.

Trump in a late October interview with the Washington Examiner would not say whether he was happy with Mulvaney’s performance.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAtlanta airport checkpoint closed after worker tests positive for coronavirus House Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks MORE’s (R-N.C.) announcement in December that he would not seek reelection added further fuel to the fire. Meadows is a close Trump ally who was among the candidates considered to replace Kelly.

In the weeks since, multiple publications cited unnamed officials who predicted Mulvaney’s departure would come shortly after the impeachment trial concluded.

Trump last week pushed out Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanDuckworth to block military confirmations until Esper proves Vindman will be promoted Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Trump pick for pandemic response watchdog pledges independence amid Democratic skepticism MORE and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandTop Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans are prioritizing big chains in coronavirus relief  MORE, two key impeachment witnesses who provided damaging testimony against the president.

But officials expressed skepticism that such a purge would extend to someone like Mulvaney, who refused to cooperate with the House inquiry despite a subpoena and, having been present for a number of the decisions at the heart of the impeachment trial, could be a dangerous individual to force out.

Instead, it appears possible he will not only last beyond the trial but well into 2020 as Trump revels in positive headlines and turns his focus to his reelection effort.

A senior administration official said they hadn’t heard talk of Mulvaney’s exit in recent months, though they acknowledged he was in the spotlight during impeachment.

Another senior official pointed to a slew of positive headlines for Trump over the past week and questioned whether the president would risk setting off another firestorm by firing Mulvaney.

“The president is happy. Is he vindictive? Yeah, he’s a little pissed. But he’s happy with the results of the White House,” the official said. “And you don’t fire your chief of staff when you’re happy with the results of the White House.”