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Photo: Mike Theiler / Getty Images

President Trump has privately mulled at least three potential replacements for chief of staff John Kelly.

The list: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, OMB chief and acting CFPB head Mick Mulvaney and businessman Tom Barrack. ABC News first reported the list earlier Friday.

What we're hearing:

  • Sources close to McCarthy and Mulvaney tell me they don't believe any discussions have happened recently with the president that would lead them to think any such change is imminent.
  • But Trump has been quietly sounding out friends, asking them what they think of Mulvaney and McCarthy. He often doesn't make it clear why he's asking the question; and friends sometimes make the logical leap because Trump privately disparages Kelly and vents his frustration about the chief.
  • In a recent conversation with Barrack, Trump asked his longtime friend whether he would ever consider coming in and serving as chief of staff. Barrack replied that it would ruin their friendship and that he thought Kelly was doing a good job, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

What happens next: Nobody knows. But the idea that a change could happen imminently simply doesn't gel with my reporting. The conversations are too loose, and it doesn't appear that Trump is settled on a solution. Also, Trump hates firing people and it would probably require Kelly to offer his resignation. (Something the White House says has not happened.)

Bottom line: Two things appear to be clear:

  1. Kelly's term as chief is entering a wintry period. This is almost inevitable when you work for Trump. (Just ask Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson.) But it doesn't necessarily mean you'll lose your job. (Just ask Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson.) 
  2. Kelly has lost the support — though never lost the essential respect —of a good deal of the White House staff.

Go deeper

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

2 hours ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).