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Mark Meadows, top Trump ally, to retire from Congress

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsBiden's no-drama White House chief Ex-Trump aide Meadows pushed DOJ to probe multiple election theories: report Trump working with Gingrich on policy agenda: report MORE (R-N.C.), a top ally of President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short 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 BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists 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 Burr House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe Lara Trump lost her best opportunity — if she ever really wanted it Trump touts record, blasts Dems in return to stage 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 McConnellWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats 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."