Trump says ‘many candidates’ want chief of staff job

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Donald Trump has hit back at reports that he is having problems finding someone to be his chief of staff, insisting it a “great and meaningful” job.

The president is scrambling to find a new chief after his first choice to replace John Kelly bailed out at the last minute and several other potential successors signalled they were not interested.

Mr Trump said on Twitter: “Fake News has it purposely wrong. Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position. Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington.”

The list of candidates is said to include Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows, and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

The White House says John Kelly will stay on at least until January 2.

Also mentioned as contenders by people close to the administration are former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, and even White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Many are not being taken seriously, but the breadth of the list highlights the uncertainty in Mr Trump’s political orbit over the job hunt.

As quickly as names were being floated, candidates appeared to be pulling out of consideration, underscoring the challenges of working for a mercurial president who has acknowledged that he likes to surround himself with chaos and despises any suggestion he is being managed.

The president’s top pick, Nick Ayers, vice president Mike Pence’s chief of staff, has decided to pull out of the job.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, a potential contender, said he was “entirely focused” on his current position, and a source close to treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin made clear he is happy in his current post.

Mr Trump has already burned through two chiefs of staff — a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a retired marine four-star general — subjecting them to regular humiliation and ridicule.

Former RNC chairman Reince Priebus’s departure from the White House was unceremoniously announced by tweet. Nearly 18 months later, Mr Trump opted against an orderly succession plan for Mr Kelly, making a surprise announcement on the White House lawn that the retired general would be leaving by the end of the year.

Mr Ayers’ announcement that he had decided to leave the White House surprised even senior staffers who believed his ascension to become Mr Trump’s chief of staff was a done deal.

The pair had discussed the job for months and the president had already been steering inquiries to him rather than Mr Kelly.

A White House official said Mr Ayers’ decision was driven by a desire to return to Georgia to be closer to his family, but sources said he was also worried about scrutiny of his former political consulting business.

When Mr Trump appoints a replacement for Mr Kelly, he will set a record for most chiefs of staff within the first 24 months of an administration, according to analysis by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution.

Yet the president once mocked his predecessor for chief of staff turnover, tweeting in 2012: “3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can’t manage to pass his agenda.”

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