Trump Allies Craft List of Potential Mulvaney Replacements

Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin

(Bloomberg) -- Some of Donald Trump’s closest associates are assembling a roster of possible replacements if the president decides to replace Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, said three people close to the situation.

Among those said to be on the list are former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and veteran political operative Wayne Berman, now a senior managing director for government relations at the Blackstone Group Inc.

White House communications staff didn’t immediately comment.

While there are few signs Trump is in a hurry to replace him, some White House aides were unhappy with Mulvaney’s performance at a press conference on Thursday, the people said. Mulvaney said that the White House had withheld nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine in part to urge an investigation of a 2016 election conspiracy theory to discredit Democrats.

“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney said in the White House press briefing room.

People close to the situation said Trump has recently been unhappy with Mulvaney for other reasons, though, including the White House’s slow response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Sept. 24 announcement of an impeachment inquiry into the president.

War Room

Mulvaney said Thursday that there was no need for an impeachment “war room” at the White House: “You don’t have a war room when you haven’t done anything wrong.”

Other White House officials denied that Mulvaney, a former South Carolina representative who’s among the longest serving officials in the Trump administration, is at risk of being pushed out.

Mulvaney has various allies in and close to the White House who may rally around him, two people said, including Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; Joe Grogan of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council; and Patrick Pizzella, Deputy Secretary of Labor.

Some Mulvaney boosters pin blame for a flat-footed impeachment strategy on White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. They said that Cipollone has a bunker mentality and has kept the White House on lock down, preventing allies from going out to fight for the president.

Nobody’s Perfect

Mulvaney said Sunday he hasn’t offered his resignation to Trump over Thursday’s press briefing.

“Did I have the perfect press conference, no,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I still think I’m doing a pretty good job as the chief of staff, and I think the president agrees.”

One White House official concurred, saying that Trump was pleased with Mulvaney’s performance at the briefing and asked that the message to be passed along. The president isn’t poised to replace Mulvaney, the official added.

Mulvaney became Trump’s third chief of staff after the departure in January of General John Kelly. The position doesn’t require Congressional approval, yet Trump has never elevated Mulvaney beyond an “acting” role. Trump fired his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, via Twitter in July 2017.

Thursday’s press conference by Mulvaney was to announce that Trump’s Miami golf resort had been chosen to host the 2020 Group of Seven summit of world leaders -- a decision the president reversed in a tweet late Saturday night following a torrent of criticism. Some of the harsh comments from usually-loyal Republican lawmakers stung the most.

If the Doral decision hadn’t been made when it was, “we wouldn’t have had the press conference on Thursday regarding -- regarding everything else,” Mulvaney said on Fox. “But that’s fine.”

(An earlier version corrected the Pizzella’s title.)

(Updates with criticism of Doral decision in 15th pargraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net;Saleha Mohsin in Washington at smohsin2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Joshua Gallu

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