Mick Mulvaney, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), speaks during a House Budget Committee hearing on U.S. President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal in Washington. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Names Mulvaney to Be Acting White House Chief of Staff

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump on Friday named his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, as acting White House chief of staff, ending a tumultuous search to replace John Kelly, who the president pushed out without having lined up a successor.

Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman, has been a jack-of-all-trades for Trump since entering the administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Until recently, he had also served simultaneously as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The president doesn’t plan to continue interviewing for a permanent chief of staff in the near term, according to two senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump, who made the announcement on Twitter, selected Mulvaney because he likes him and appreciates his knowledge of Congress and Capitol Hill, the officials said. The president, they added, sees the budget chief as politically savvy and fiscally responsible.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Mulvaney responded in a tweet. “I look forward to working with the President and the entire team. It’s going to be a great 2019!”

He will take the helm of a West Wing dogged by intensifying questions about the president’s legal and political exposure heading into his 2020 re-election campaign, and as Democrats are poised to take over the House of Representatives. Just this week, Trump faced a string of setbacks that threatened to bring a new round of turmoil to his White House.

As a congressman, Mulvaney was one of the architects of a 2013 government shutdown in a confrontation with the Obama administration. He will play a crucial role in negotiations to avoid a partial shutdown at the end of next week.

One of his former Capitol Hill colleagues, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who will lead the Republican minority in the new Congress, praised Mulvaney’s promotion, saying on Twitter that his “track record and work ethic will serve @POTUS and our country well. This is superb news.”

Kelly expects to stay on as chief of staff until the end of the year, but there will be a transition period. The move buys time to complete what has become a chaotic and hasty search to succeed Kelly, after the president announced his exit last weekend.

“For the record, there were MANY people who wanted to be the White House Chief of Staff,” Trump tweeted on Friday night. “Mick M will do a GREAT job!”

Trump’s first choice -- Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Nick Ayers -- turned down the job after Trump announced Kelly’s departure Saturday. As recently as Friday morning, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the frontrunner. Christie withdrew from consideration Friday afternoon.

Trump Names Mulvaney to Be Acting White House Chief of Staff

Trump met with Christie in the White House residence on Thursday after a holiday reception. But people close to Trump said on Friday that Christie damaged his prospects because of a memoir he’s publishing in January that’s expected to be critical of the president and the family of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. As a U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Christie led the successful prosecution of Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner.

While Mulvaney’s candor has impressed Trump in meetings and briefings, it has also generated some controversy during his tenure in the administration. During a meeting with bankers, Mulvaney said that during his time in Congress, he didn’t speak to lobbyists who didn’t donate to his campaign.

“If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney has also come under scrutiny for his role in the administration’s decision against relocating the FBI headquarters to suburban Washington. Critics of the decision have questioned whether Trump opted against the deal -- which would have turned over the current downtown bureau headquarters to private developers -- because he didn’t want to see see construction of a hotel that could compete with Trump International on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The appointment of the OMB chief comes despite allies saying he wasn’t interested in the post. One person close to Mulvaney said that for months he insisted he didn’t want to be chief of staff, but would be interested in leading the Commerce or Treasury departments, should the president want him.

Trump and Mulvaney met in person at the White House on Friday and then spoke again on the telephone in the late afternoon, one of the officials said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Mulvaney “will not resign from the Office Of Management and Budget, but will spend all of his time devoted to his role as the acting chief of staff for the president.” She added that his deputy, Russell Vought, would take over the “day to day operations and run OMB.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.