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Meadows looks to make his move

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSides tiptoe toward a COVID-19 deal, but breakthrough appears distant Batten down the Hatch Act: Trump using tax dollars to boost his 'brand' This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal MORE (R-N.C.) is making his move to become President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE’s next chief of staff.

The outgoing chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Monday made it clear he is interested in the role, saying he would be honored to be chosen.

“Serving as chief of staff would be an incredible honor,” Meadows, 59, said in a statement. “The president has a long list of qualified candidates and I know he’ll make the best selection for his administration and for the country.”

Meadows’s allies also made a forceful public case that Trump should pick their friend as his next top aide – something the North Carolina has been asking his friends to do, according to Republican sources.

“Trump campaigns for himself every day,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill, describing Meadows' approach.

Meadows' office pushed back on the GOP sources who said the Freedom Caucus chairman had asked them to lobby on his behalf.

"Sources aren't accurate. He has not been campaigning for the job," said Meadows spokesman Ben Williamson.

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During an interview on Fox News, Trump’s favorite network, Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCongressional antitrust report rips tech firms for stifling competition Loeffler tweets edited video showing Trump taking down coronavirus in wrestling match Why is Florida screaming about the pay-to-vote system it created? MORE (R-Fla.) made an unsolicited plug for Meadows during a discussion about former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyEx-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals DOJ weakens policy on investigating elections: report 'Comey Rule' exposes entertainment reporting's blinding partisanship MORE’s interview with House lawmakers.

“It’s one of the reasons I think President Trump needs to pick Mark Meadows to be his chief of staff, because Mark fully understands the facts and the timeline and will make sure the White House is prepared to go toe-to-toe with a far more politically engaged James Comey,” Gaetz said.

Meadows’s fellow House conservatives say Trump would be getting an effective communicator and politically savvy loyalist who understands how to parry special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s intensifying probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as newly empowered House Democrats who are preparing to launch multiple investigations into the administration.

“He knows the investigations better than anyone else who could feasibly be on that short list,” said a conservative GOP source familiar with the probes.

White House sources confirmed that Meadows is on Trump’s list, but there are no indications that he is the front-runner.

Sources said there was no clear plan B after Trump’s first choice, 36-year-old Nick Ayers, turned down the job, indicating the White House is prepared for a lengthy search to replace chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.

“They’re at square one. There is no favorite. There is no one in line. They’re starting at square one,” said one person close to the White House, who requested anonymity to discuss the search.

Several other administration officials and outside allies are believed to be in the mix, but it is unclear how many of them want the position.

Some, such as Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal On The Money: Sides tiptoe towards a COVID deal, but breakthrough appears distant | Expiring benefits raise stakes of stimulus talks | Stocks fade with eyes on Capitol MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE, have indicated they prefer to remain in their positions, and Trump may not want to move either man, who are tasked with leading high-stakes trade talks with China.

Another possible candidate, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? On The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security MORE, has said he is not interested in the post, according to multiple reports.

Other people being considered include acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and former Trump campaign aide David Bossie. Whitaker has been a vocal critic of the Mueller probe, and Bossie recently co-authored a book titled “Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency.” One person mentioned as an outside-the-box candidate, New York Yankees President Randy Levine, issued a statement downplaying his interest in the role, saying he has “spoken to nobody about the chief of staff job” and is “very happy” in his current role.

Trump announced Saturday that Kelly, his chief of staff since July 2017, will leave his post by the end of the year. That, plus Ayers’s decision to pass up the opportunity, set off a scramble to fill one of the most powerful jobs in the White House.

People close to the administration say the president is looking for someone who has political experience and can lead the White House into the 2020 reelection campaign. Kelly spent four decades in the Marine Corps before joining the Trump administration and was widely criticized among the president’s supporters for not having the requisite political chops for the job.

Trump’s allies also say the president would be well suited to pick someone with whom he has a friendship to help handle the president’s freewheeling style and volcanic temper.

“This is someone you’re going to be with nonstop, seven days a week. There has to be some kind of personal relationship there to backstop the professional relationship,” said one source close to the White House.

Meadows has grown incredibly close to Trump during the past few years, serving as the president’s sounding board on issues ranging from the border wall to conservative allegations of bias tainting the Russia probe. They speak by phone on almost a daily basis, and the president calls him at all hours of the day and night.

The two men first developed a relationship during the 2016 campaign, when Trump was stumping in towns throughout the Tar Heel State.

In an interview last year with The Hill, Meadows said Trump, just days before the 2016 election, asked him to make some predictions while they flew on Trump’s campaign plane. Meadows correctly predicted that Trump would win North Carolina and had a “60-40” chance of winning the presidency.

Meadows might need a new post with House Republicans headed into the minority for the first time in eight years.

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The North Carolina conservative had hoped to become the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but dropped out of the running to allow his best friend in Congress, Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Republicans lash out at Twitter and Facebook over Hunter Biden article Meadows hosted wedding despite guidelines banning gatherings of more than 10 people: report MORE (R-Ohio), to assume the role. Meadows also opted not to run for another term as head of the Freedom Caucus.

As chief of staff, it’s likely Meadows would be in close contact and coordination with Jordan over investigations being handled by the Oversight panel.

Jordan on Monday endorsed Meadows for the chief of staff job. 

“I think he’d be great,” the Ohio lawmaker said in a phone interview. “Mark understands how Capitol Hill works. He’s a smart guy. This decision is between the president and Mark, but I think he’d do an outstanding job.”

In cable news interviews and congressional hearings, the pair of Freedom Caucus leaders have been sounding the alarm about what they perceive as bias against Trump when it comes to the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Mark Meadows has strong conservative principles; he’s dedicated to the agenda that helped to elect Donald Trump. He also sees the attacks against the president for what they are: entirely partisan and dangerous to our Constitution and democracy,” Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a Freedom Caucus colleague, told The Hill.

“Donald Trump deserves a chief of staff who can defend him in public and organize the White House effectively to achieve the American people’s goals, including safe and secure borders and a growing economy.”

But some in Washington have wondered if Meadows would be a poor fit, given his background in leading a bloc of conservative bomb-throwers in the House. The Freedom Caucus, following Meadows’s lead, pressured then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerPelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats On The Trail: How Trump lost the law and order debate MORE (R-Ohio) to resign in the middle of his term in 2015 and gave his successor, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Barrett declines to say if Trump can pardon himself MORE (R-Wis.), constant headaches as well.

Even as the White House is bracing for a litany of investigations led by Democrats, it has expressed interest in working with House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE (Calif.), likely the next Speaker, on issues such as infrastructure and prescription-drug pricing.

“I cherish the thought of the first time chief of staff Meadows has to lobby the Freedom Caucus to vote for some terrible deal Trump has cut with Pelosi,” joked one GOP lawmaker.

Updated at 7:38 p.m.