A few weeks back, a Trump-administration official told me that the White House’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, would soon be “acting” no more. Mulvaney had won the job for good, and Donald Trump was about to make him permanent chief, this person said. One week ago, another person close to the president came to me with a different tip: Trump had seen enough, and Mulvaney’s firing was imminent.
Neither whisper has proved true. Mulvaney is still in place, though Trump refuses to lift a modifier on a job title—acting—that all but screams, This person’s grip on the job is shaky.
But here’s a bigger question: Outside of Mulvaney’s friends and family, does anyone need to care about the chief of staff’s fate? Since assuming the presidency, Trump has cycled through senior aides at a faster clip than any president since Ronald Reagan, converting the office into a solo operation driven by impulse and chatter on cable news. Turnover at the top ranks of the West Wing stands at 80 percent. A cynic might ask, What’s one more casualty?
Over the past few weeks, according to White House sources, Trump has been quizzing confidants about whether Mulvaney is tough enough as the Democratic-controlled House barrels toward an impeachment vote. The same person close to Trump, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about personnel issues, noted that Mulvaney, who took the job in December, might not be battle-tested. For most of the time Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigated Trump’s conduct as part of the Russia investigation, Mulvaney was in a peripheral role as budget director and acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “He wasn’t in the foxhole in the last go-round,” this person told me. The White House did not make Mulvaney available for comment for this article.