President Trump’s post-impeachment staffing purge continued on Friday night when he fired acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, replacing him with far-right congressman and Trump mega-ally Mark Meadows. Trump announced the shakeup via Twitter, but Mulvaney reportedly knew it was coming — particularly since he and some of his top aides had already seen their roles reduced in recent months. Meadows will be President Trump’s fourth chief of staff in less than four years, and will undoubtedly replace many White House staffers in the coming weeks.
Mulvaney’s fate was likely sealed amid the Ukraine scandal last year, during which he battled White House lawyer Pat A. Cipollone, was scapegoated by other Trump advisers, and in October, gave a disastrous news briefing in which he contradicted Trump by admitting that the White House had imposed a quid pro quo on Ukraine — withholding U.S. aid unless Ukraine’s government agreed to launch investigations that would be politically beneficial to Trump. Mulvaney was a central figure in those efforts, which resulted in Trump being impeached, and he eventually refused a House subpoena to testify about what he knew.
Though Mulvaney has been a comparatively stable presence in the Trump administration from the start, his influence over the president and White House had reportedly been waning for some time, and Trump had wanted to fire him for months, but was convinced to wait until after his impeachment. Mulvaney will also leave his other administration job as director of the Office of Management and Budget, where he may now be replaced by acting director Russell T. Vought, according to the New York Times.
Meadows will take over a White House in the midst of some monumental challenges, including the escalating coronavirus crisis and Trump’s reelection campaign. A longtime brawler on the right, it’s not yet clear how he will handle the larger responsibilities of his new role, but Trump likes him, so the job is his until the president decides he never liked him at all.
The North Carolina congressman had already announced in December that he would be retiring from Congress and that he would likely join the White House or Trump campaign, telling his constituents, “I can best serve the president and the American people in a different capacity.” In other words, though Meadows’s often shameless efforts to defend the president in the House undoubtedly pleased Trump, the GOP minority-bound lawmaker (whom John Boehner once called an “idiot”) was moving onto bigger, better, and more infamous things in MAGA-world. For someone like Meadows — who used to be known for his repeated attempts to lead revolts against the now-decimated GOP Establishment — ending up as Donald Trump’s righthand man was destiny fulfilled. His wife, Debbie, was even one of the few women who went on television to defend Trump after the Access Hollywood video emerged in 2016 of him admitting he enjoyed sexual assault.
One administration source told the Washington Post that Meadows was a “really savvy strategist” who will “be crucial in helping [the White House] get out of the cycle of being totally reactive.” Other sources worried Meadows was a duplicitous operator who only tells the president what he wants to hear. He’ll fit right in.