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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

Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.

Dave Lawler, author of World
17 mins ago - World

Belarus dictator Lukashenko says he'll leave post after new constitution

Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty

Longtime Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said he will step down after a new constitution comes into force, according to Belarusian state media.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has faced three months of protests following a rigged election in August. He has promised to reform the constitution to reduce the near-absolute powers of the president, but has insisted that his strong hand is needed to see that process through.

3 hours ago - World

Iran confirms assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadhe

The Iranian ministry of defense issued a statement on Friday confirming the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadhe, an Iranian scientist and the architect behind the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Fakhrizadhe was the head of the Amad project in the Iranian ministry of defense, which focused on developing a nuclear bomb until 2003.