Mark Meadows, top Trump ally, to retire from Congress

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAnxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid Pelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November MORE (R-N.C.), a top ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance 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 BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks 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 BurrHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs Rep. Mark Walker says he's been contacted about Liberty University vacancy 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 McConnellTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power 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."