Dec 15, 2018

Behind the scenes of Mick Mulvaney's move to chief of staff

Mick Mulvaney speaks in the White House briefing room in March. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

President Trump had a meeting scheduled Monday with a possible candidate for White House chief of staff. Guess that guy ain't getting it.

You can tell so much about West Wing dynamics by the way Trump announced Mick Mulvaney — already wearing two hats as White House budget director and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — as his acting chief of staff.

  • Trump blurted out his decision with a 5:18 p.m. Friday tweet, amid coverage of how few top people wanted the job. (On CNN, the job was compared to hosting the Oscars. Trump tweeted: "For the record, there were MANY people who wanted to be the White House Chief of Staff.")
  • Trump announced Mulvaney as "Acting" chief of staff, a puzzling wrinkle which prolongs the instability that a new chief of staff presumably would be tasked with vanquishing.

White House insiders expect Mulvaney to get the permanent gig.

  • But Trump keeps control and doesn't fully empower his guy, reminding Mulvaney who the real chief of staff is: No funny business like General John Kelly tried to pull, restricting enablers' access to POTUS.
  • This is exactly why some other candidates didn't take the job or didn't get the job: They would have insisted on changes Trump doesn't want to make.
  • A senior administration official who spoke to reporters at the White House said: "There’s no time limit." Asked why Mulvaney was named "acting," the official said: "Because that’s what the president wants."
  • A White House statement last night said: "Mick 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. Russ Vought will handle day to day operations and run OMB."

After all the drama around the pick, numerous Trump allies — inside and out — told me they think the pick is a pretty good idea and has as good a chance of working as anything.

  • Mulvaney, 51 (bi0) is a former congressman from South Carolina who has the toughness, Hill connections and political skills Trump will need amid a re-election race, a hostile House and impeachment/Mueller drama.
  • Their personal chemistry is great — a key criterion for Trump. Mulvaney is one of the very few administration officials who golfs with Trump. "And Mick is actually a good golfer," said one insider. "Trump respects that."

The WashPost has the sentence of the day: "Mulvaney has an easy rapport with Trump, often taking large charts and colorful graphics into the Oval Office to explain fiscal policy, administration officials said."

Mick Mulvaney. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Above, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney discusses a possible government shutdown 11 months ago.

  • Shutdown watch: Deadline Friday night to avoid partial federal government shutdown. The House is taking an extended five-day weekend, returning Wednesday night. Senate returns Monday. Ball is in Trump's court. (AP)

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 5,463,392 — Total deaths: 344,503 — Total recoveries — 2,195,325Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,653,904 — Total deaths: 97,948 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

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The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.