Mark Meadows out of the running for White House chief of staff

updated / CBS News

Trump considers Chief of Staff replacements

House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows is out of the running to replace John Kelly as chief of staff. President Trump wants the North Carolina Republican to stay in Congress.

"Congressman Mark Meadows is a great friend to President Trump and is doing an incredible job in Congress," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. "The president told him we need him in Congress so he can continue the great work he is doing there."

Meadows had been a contender for the role, after Mr. Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, dropped out of the running. Ayers and Mr. Trump couldn't come to an agreement on a time commitment for the post, and the president was forced to revisit other options. Meadows has been a staunch defender of Mr. Trump in the House, and the two already have a strong relationship. Mr. Trump will still need defenders in the House when Democrats take control of Congress in January.

"I've had the best job in the world, representing the people of western North Carolina and working alongside President Trump these last two years to give the forgotten men and women of America a voice in their government," Meadows said in a statement Wednesday. "I'm fully committed to continuing in both of those roles. I know the President has a long list of tremendous candidates for his next chief of staff, and whomever it is will have my total support moving forward."

Meadows expressed interest in the role earlier this week, suggesting it would be an "honor" to serve in the role, if the president wanted him to do so. He also talked about the gig with reporters on Capitol Hill, and made an appearance on Fox News Monday night.

Mr. Trump joked about the North Carolina Republican Tuesday at a bill signing Meadows attended, saying Meadows is "somebody that nobody has ever heard of."

The president told Reuters Tuesday that more than 10 people are vying to be chief of staff, pushing back at reporting and speculation that the role is an undesirable one, given Mr. Trump's spontaneous tendencies and the sudden announcements of the departures of his last two chiefs of staff.

"I have at least 10, 12 – 12 people that want it badly. I'm making a decision. Great people," he told Reuters. "I could do it immediately. I'm in no rush. A lot of people want it."

— CBS News' Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett and CBS News' Kathryn Watson contributed reporting

First published on December 12, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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