Mick Mulvaney is expected to remain President Trump’s acting chief of staff through the 2020 election, according to three sources familiar with his standing in the White House.
Trump announced his selection of Mulvaney one year ago Saturday, but sources said the former South Carolina congressman likely will remain “acting” indefinitely. Mulvaney allies view the term as meaningless to his work.
“Mick’s acting title is just that — just a title,” a senior White House official told the Washington Examiner. “I don’t expect it to change any time soon because it’s never affected the way he’s approached the job or the way the president sees him.”
In his year leading White House staff, Mulvaney survived intense political standoffs with Democrats and internal palace intrigue. The year began with the longest partial government shutdown in history and ends with Trump’s probable impeachment.
“The president has been very complimentary of him lately, and their relationship is as strong as ever,” said the senior official.
Mulvaney replaced John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general who restricted access to Trump and boasted of curbing orders he considered ill-advised. Mulvaney is seen as eager to please Trump by performing rather than resisting instructions.
In a sign of his standing with Trump, Mulvaney was among a small number of senior aides who joined the president for a Christmas trip to Afghanistan. He’s also forged relationships with Trump’s family. A former official said he’s been seen dining with the family on trips to Florida.
At points, Mulvaney appeared in jeopardy, with news articles suggesting Trump was growing dissatisfied. In mid-October, he had to walk back press conference remarks in which he conceded Ukraine aid was withheld to force an investigation of Democrats.
During a late October interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump passed on an opportunity to defend Mulvaney from criticism by Republican senators. “Happy? I don’t want to comment on it,” Trump said of Mulvaney’s performance.
The stumble coincided with a clash over impeachment strategy with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, with Mulvaney allies arguing Cipollone failed to treat impeachment as a political battle and retreated into a rhetorical cave.
The senior White House official said disagreements between Mulvaney and Cipollone subsided “for the most part” and that Mulvaney “has a thick skin and excels at staying focused on the task at hand” amid reports that suggested he may be fired.
A second source, a senior administration official close to West Wing politics, said, “Mick is respected in the White House and is moving forward with the full faith of the president.”
A well-connected Republican operative close to the White House, who is not close to Mulvaney, said insiders widely believe that “barring anything crazy,” he will remain in his position through the November election.
Trump is believed to favor staff stability amid impeachment and an intensifying reelection campaign.
Mulvaney works from a corner office in the West Wing, down the hall from the Oval Office. He worked as the director of the White House budget office before Trump elevated him to his current job. Although he started Jan. 2, his transition began with Trump tweeting his selection.
White House representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
The White House official credited diminished internal tension with the intensity of an external fight with Democrats on Capitol Hill. “Everyone is focused on working together to defeat impeachment,” the official said.
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