Mark Meadows, top Trump ally, to retire from Congress

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Meadows says Trump told him he didn't threaten senators on impeachment vote Impeachment trial to enter new phase with Trump defense MORE (R-N.C.), a top ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE, announced Thursday morning that he will retire from Congress at the end of his term.

Meadows, a four-term lawmaker who represents part of western North Carolina, said in a statement that he “struggled” with leaving what he has long considered a “temporary job.”

“For everything there is a season. After prayerful consideration and discussion with family, today I’m announcing that my time serving Western North Carolina in Congress will come to a close at the end of this term,” Meadows said. “This was a decision I struggled with greatly.”

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“My work with President Trump and his administration is only beginning,” Meadows added. “This President has accomplished incredible results for the country in just 3 years, and I’m fully committed to staying in the fight with him and his team to build on those successes and deliver on his promises for the years to come. I’ve always said Congress is a temporary job, but the fight to return Washington, DC to its rightful owner, We The People, has only just begun.”

The announcement came a day before the North Carolina filing deadline, forcing him to make the decision now. Unlike some in the North Carolina congressional delegation, Meadows was not affected much by the state's newly released congressional map. His 11th District is expected to remain solidly in the GOP ranks.

The mild-mannered lawmaker has been an influential conservative for much of his eight years in Congress, having served as chairman of the House Freedom Caucus during the first two years of Trump's presidency and playing a key role in the push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Having taken up the mantle as a top conservative, Meadows has long been considered a thorn in the side of GOP leadership, having first made a name for himself with his efforts to oust former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA time for war, a time for peace — and always a time to defend America Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats MORE (R-Ohio).

Most recently, though, he has served as one of Trump's chief allies in Congress and was one of the president's most vocal backers in the face of Wednesday's impeachment vote. After the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape emerged in October 2016, Meadows and his wife, Debbie, were among the Republicans who stuck by Trump's side and continued to campaign publicly for him while other high-profile lawmakers dropped their support, which the president has not forgotten.

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Speculation has run rampant that Meadows could join the Trump administration in some capacity, including as an eventual chief of staff, which he has expressed interest in previously.

His plans, however, do not include a potential Senate bid in 2022, when Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrMarsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial GOP senator provides fidget spinners to Senate colleagues at lunch Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (R-N.C.) is set to retire. Meadows shot down any chatter of a bid for the upper chamber while talking to reporters early on Wednesday before news of his retirement emerged.

However, despite Meadows's claim that he wasn't running for Burr's seat, he offered up unusual praise for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer: Trump's team made case for new witnesses 'even stronger' Trump, Democrats risk unintended consequences with impeachment arguments CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE over the Kentucky Republican's early handling of chatter related to a Senate impeachment trial that is expected to start next month. Even Meadows considered the praise noteworthy.

"I'm very confident that Leader McConnell will move properly. Maybe that's the biggest headline," Meadows said before offering up his own headline: "Past Freedom Caucus chairman supports Leader McConnell in an unequivocal manner."