This month, Donald Trump appointed Mark Meadows as the fourth White House Chief of Staff, replacing Mick Mulvaney. Here’s everything you need to know about Meadows, Mulvaney, and the Chief of Staff situation.
Why Mulvaney was fired
Trump’s former acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is now the U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland. While Trump thanked Mulvaney for his service on Twitter, Mulvaney wasn’t anywhere near as close to the President as Meadows is.
Trump appointed Mulvaney as Chief of Staff to replace John Kelly. Kelly attempted to exercise a high amount of influence over Trump’s affairs, imposing rigid rules on the administration to maintain order. Mulvaney was active in Washington, but much more relaxed in regulating Trump and his staff. He served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mulvaney also appointed various pro-Trump conservatives to government positions.
At the same time, Mulvaney often traveled away from Trump to work on separate endeavors, such as when he was politicking in North Carolina while Trump fired national security advisor John Bolton. He also chose not to accompany Trump to certain high-profile visits, such as when Trump recently visited the CDC in Atlanta without him. He was often “out of the loop.” As one anonymous Trump advisor said, frequently “‘the president would say there was no need to loop Mulvaney into a particular discussion.’”
A critical moment for Mulvaney came in October 2019, when he implied at a press conference that Trump had withheld military aid for Ukraine until they announced an investigation into their own involvement in the 2016 DNC hacks. (Ukraine was not involved in the hacking). “We do that all the time with foreign policy,” he said. “And I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” He seemed to confirm what Trump’s defenders were insisting hadn’t happened. Mulvaney denied evidence of a quid pro quo soon after.
Meadows is a close ally of Trump’s
Trump announced Meadows’ appointment on Friday, March 6, over Twitter. “I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one,” he said.
I am pleased to announce that Congressman Mark Meadows will become White House Chief of Staff. I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2020
Trump and Meadows absolutely have a “very good” relationship. According to the Washington Post, “Trump often calls Meadows early in the morning and late at night, after growing distrustful of House Republican leadership and developing an appreciation of Meadows’s appearances on cable television.” Meadows was also one of the most prominent advocates against impeaching Trump, and would often talk to Trump four or five times a day during the impeachment trial. Besides Trump, Meadows is on good terms with senior advisor (and Trump’s son-in-law) Jared Kushner.
While Trump highly values Meadows, others in the White House are worried that he doesn’t have the political experience to be Chief of Staff. One Trump aide said that “The president, and I’ve heard him say this, sees Mark as very good politically. But the president is a political animal. He needs someone who will actually take care of the store for him while he’s out running for reelection. And there’s a question in my mind whether Mark can do that.”
Meadows accepted his job offer, saying that he looked forward to building on the “incredible victories” of the Trump presidency and “staying in the fight for the forgotten men and women of America.”
Meadows is more conservative than most House Republicans
Meadows is the former leader of the House Freedom Caucus, which was established in January 2019 as a platform for the most conservative representatives. Their goal is to shift party leadership to the right and restore power to committees and caucuses.
On a score of -1 to 1, where -1 is the most liberal and 1 is the most conservative, Pew Research Center gave Meadows an ideological score of 0.625.
Throughout his career, Meadows has voted in line with Trump’s position 91.3% of the time. His voting record includes voting against restricting Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran, voting against restoring parts of the Voting Rights Act, and voting for the validation of concealed-carry firearm permits across state lines.
Meadows’ House seat may be replaced by a friend of his wife’s
There is some evidence that Meadows sought to prop up Lynda Bennett, a friend of his wife’s and a Republican activist, to replace his own House seat. Bennett’s campaign website domain was registered on October 28, 2019, by a Scott Meadows. Her campaign Facebook page was created a day before Meadows announced his retirement. She posted photos of herself with Meadows and his wife at local GOP events five hours before Meadows made the announcement.
No, Meadows does not have COVID-19 (yet)
Meadows was exposed to an infected individual at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and is now in self-imposed quarantine but has tested negative for COVID-19.
As Meadows takes his position in Trump’s cabinet, an anonymous source close to the White House claimed that “everyone knows” who the “real” Chief of Staff is: Donald Trump.
Image credit to Gage Skidmore of Wikimedia Commons.