Mace chief of staff steps down during turbulent week

The chief of staff for Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) is resigning to pursue a “new opportunity in the private sector” in 2022, Mace’s office confirmed on Thursday.

In an email, Mace’s office pointed to a story on the conservative website Breitbart and pushing back on a "false" narrative, saying chief of staff Mara Mellstrom’s departure had been long planned.   

Breitbart reported that Mellstrom had resigned Wednesday amid an intraparty feud between her boss and fellow freshmen Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), two of former President Trump’s top loyalists on Capitol Hill.

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"This has been in the works for some time. Mara Mellstrom will be beginning a new opportunity in the private sector in the new year. Congresswoman Mace thanks her for two incredible years of service,” said Mace’s new chief, Daniel Hanlon, who had served as deputy chief of staff.

Mellstrom’s departure this week is just the latest in a string of staffers who have either been fired or resigned to take other jobs during Mace’s first year in office. Four of the eight Mace staffers who work on Capitol Hill left the office during a tumultuous six-week stretch, between July 1 and Aug. 15, sources said.

Those who left the office during that period were legislative assistant Logan McVey, as well as Mace’s entire three-person communications team; communications director Natalie Johnson, press secretary Yates Wilburn, and press assistant/scheduler Grace Farmer. 

Some of those ex-staffers described a toxic environment working under both Mace and Mellstrom, who had served as the congresswoman’s 2020 campaign manager. 

“The staffing turnover has nothing to do with politics. It’s purely about the way that Nancy and Mara treat people,” one former Mace staffer told The Hill. “It’s toxic; it’s corrosive — the whole environment. Mara will tell you to do something on Monday, and  9 a.m. Tuesday, she is screaming her head off asking 'why did you do it that way?'"

“Anybody who thinks Mara quit or was pressured to quit or resign or was fired because of politics hasn’t had more than a 20 minute conversation with Mara.”

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Mellstrom declined to comment for this story, referring The Hill back to Mace’s office. 

After this story was published, she issued a statement praising both Mace and her colleagues.

"Thank you so much for two excellent years working for you. I have worked alongside some wonderful colleagues, and have had so many opportunities to grow and develop in my career field,” Mellstrom said. "This has been the honor of my lifetime and I can’t wait to see what greatness is in store for you and for the team.”

A Mace spokesman had no comment about allegations of a toxic workplace in the office.

But a source familiar with the situation aggressively pushed back on those allegations, saying that two of those ex-staffers had left to pursue career opportunities that were not currently available in Mace’s office.

The former staffer complaining about Mace and Mellstrom “brought toxic behavior to the workplace and was effectively terminated for that reason and continues to harass the congresswoman months later with comments such as this,” the source said.

A chief of staff to another House Republican said he has had a good relationship with Mellstrom during chiefs meetings and other interactions. 

“She seemed loyal to Nancy MaceNancy MaceHouse Democratic conference postponed due to COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Mace tests positive for COVID-19 a second time MORE and always respectful, and I had a positive interactions with her,” said the GOP chief.

Daniel Scarpinato, a former House GOP campaign strategist and the former chief of staff to Arizona Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceySome in GOP begin testing party's lockstep loyalty to Trump Trump slams Biden, voices unsubstantiated election fraud claims at first rally of 2022 Trump to make election claims center stage in Arizona MORE (R), also praised Mellstrom. He worked with her on ballot initiatives and on the Ducey reelection campaign, as well as in the governor's office.

"I had an excellent experience working with her. She got things done, she was smart, she was great to deal with, and has a great reputation here in Arizona," Scarpinato said by phone. "I think she is talented. I think she is a good person. I would hire her in a heartbeat.”

The internal drama in Mace’s office comes during a curious moment for the South Carolina Republican.

Earlier this week, Mace found herself at the center of a political storm after she appeared on CNN and called out Boebert for making Islamophobic comments suggesting that progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, could be a terrorist.

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Greene, a Boebert ally who has clashed with Mace on and off since their election in 2020, then tweeted that Mace was “the trash in the GOP conference.”

Mace responded in kind on Twitter, using emojis appearing to call Greene “batshit crazy” and “nuts.” 

Greene said she is now more determined than ever to back a GOP primary challenger against Mace, and she’s confident she has Trump’s backing in that endeavor. 

Mace, 43, had been seen as a rising star in the party. She has a compelling personal story, breaking the glass ceiling as the first woman to graduate from the Citadel. In 2020, with help from Mellstrom, Mace knocked off incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamMace chief of staff steps down during turbulent week Pediatrician unveils challenge to GOP's Mace in South Carolina 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection MORE in a tight race. Since then, she has been a regular presence on the cable news circuit.

But Mace has drawn the ire of Trump and his acolytes on the Hill after she blamed Trump for causing the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.  She later trained her fire on President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE and House progressives, but last month joined Democrats in voting to refer the criminal contempt case against Trump confidant Steve BannonSteve BannonBiden's new calls to action matter, as does the one yet to come GOP's McCarthy has little incentive to work with Jan. 6 panel Jan. 6 panel subpoenas Trump allies who helped with rally MORE to the Justice Department after he refused to testify before the Jan. 6 committee.

Now, Mace is waging war with some of Trump’s loyalists in Congress.

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"I stand on my own two feet. I ran as a fiscal conservative. I said I would be an independent voice. I said I would not toe the party line, and I'm not going to do that. That's what my constituents expect and that's what I've been doing and will continue to do,” Mace told reporters in the Capitol. 

“I'm gonna do me to the best of my ability and represent my district, my state and my country. ... I won't get distracted, but I also am not going to be a doormat to allow someone — Republican or Democrat — to lie about my record. End of story. Nobody should be put in that situation. I've broken so many glass ceilings, I've been to the Citadel, I was the first woman who graduated from there."

“I'm not a doormat for anybody."

Mike Lillis contributed. 

Updated 4:11 p.m.