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Trump Announces Mick Mulvaney As Acting White House Chief Of Staff


President Trump has tapped his budget director to serve as the next White House chief of staff on an interim basis. Mick Mulvaney replaces John Kelly, who's leaving at the end of this month. The announcement comes after several other high-profile candidates turned down the job. This will be Trump's third chief of staff in less than two years. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us from the White House. Hi, Scott.


SHAPIRO: We've heard Mick Mulvaney's name attached to a lot of titles in the last couple of years. Remind us who he is.

HORSLEY: He is a former South Carolina congressman. The White House hopes that will be an asset for the administration with his former colleagues on Capitol Hill. He's known as a fiscal conservative even though as budget director he has overseen a ballooning federal deficit. He's been budget director since the beginning of the Trump administration, and he also did double duty for a time as director of the Consumer Financial Watchdog Agency, a watchdog that he tried to keep on a very short leash. His replacement at that job was just confirmed by the Senate last week, so Mulvaney maybe had some time on his hands. Trump announced his appointment as acting chief of staff this evening via Twitter.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about that acting word before his title. Do we know if he's a candidate for the post permanently?

HORSLEY: A senior administration official was asked about that acting designation tonight and simply said that's what the president wants. There is no expiration date on the title, so for all intents and purposes, Mulvaney is the chief of staff for the time being. The officials said the president tapped him for the acting post because he likes Mulvaney and they get along. And there is some precedent, Ari, for Trump giving someone a tryout in an acting position and then after a period of time just promoting them to the permanent post.

SHAPIRO: The outgoing chief of staff, John Kelly, had a tough time during his 17 months in the job. And we know other people have said they've taken themselves out of the running. Do you think people are scared away from wanting this post?

HORSLEY: Well, Kelly's experience may have frightened some folks off. You know, the retired Marine general came in with high hopes of instilling military discipline here at the White House, but the president himself doesn't like being corralled. And over time, Kelly's control of the West Wing waned.

When Trump announced last Saturday that Kelly would be leaving at the end of the month, he thought he had a replacement all lined up, but the frontrunner, Vice President Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayres, abruptly dropped out. And as you mentioned, since then, we've had some other high-profile candidates say they're not interested, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who's got his hands full with China talks. So it's possible Mulvaney can keep this job as long as he wants. The president said he looks forward to working with Mulvaney, and he also tweeted his thanks for outgoing chief of staff Kelly.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Scott Horsley speaking with us from the White House. Thank you.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.