Mick Mulvaney to be acting White House chief of staff

By Kathryn Watson

updated / CBS News

Mick Mulvaney named acting chief of staff

The White House chief of staff sweepstakes is over for the moment — and Mick Mulvaney is the winner, President Trump announced Friday on Twitter.

Mulvaney is currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget, a role he'll be giving up for this job, and he was also recently the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He will replace outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly, who is set to leave at the end of the year, with a transition period.

But it's unclear how long Mulvaney will be the "acting" chief of staff. When Mr. Trump announced Kelly's impending departure on the White House South Lawn earlier this month, he suggested he might select someone on an interim basis — but it's unclear if that's what this is for Mulvaney.

I am pleased to announce that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction. Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 14, 2018

….I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! John will be staying until the end of the year. He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 14, 2018

Mulvaney said he was honored to have been selected.

"This is a tremendous honor. I look forward to working with the president and the entire team. It's going to be a great 2019!" Mulvaney tweeted.

Russ Vought, who was Mulvaney's deputy at OMB will move into the top job at the White House budget office.

Only hours earlier, the president had a list of five candidates, according to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. Names CBS News had reported as potential contenders included Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, among others.

It's unclear why the president has selected Mulvaney to serve with the "acting" title when Mr. Trump's first pick, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Nick Ayers, bowed out of the running when Mr. Trump wouldn't accept a three-month, interim tenure.

Even after the Mulvaney announcement, Mr. Trump insisted that "many" people wanted the job, amid reporting and speculation that it isn't a desirable role given how Mr. Trump has treated his current and former chiefs of staff.

"For the record, there were MANY people who wanted to be the White House Chief of Staff. Mick M will do a GREAT job!" he tweeted Friday night.

Trump's team 59 photos

Asked why Mulvaney will be serving as "acting" chief of staff, without the permanent title, one senior White House official told reporters, "We'll see. I mean, it's what the president wanted for right now, and if we have changes we'll let you know."

One administration official, speaking to reporters, cited Mulvaney's experience as a "former member of Congress."
"He knows Congress. He knows Capitol Hill," the official said of Mulvaney, adding that he is "fiscally responsible."

The career of 51-year-old Mulvaney has risen quickly through the ranks. Only two years ago, he was a South Carolina congressman, known for his fiscal prudence. He will now be responsible for guiding the president through the budget process and attempting to bring down the national debt. But Mr. Trump has pushed for big spending — especially when it comes to defense — and his tax cuts haven't helped alleviate deficits, either.

Mulvaney will also have to help steer Mr. Trump through Democratic probes in Congress when the opposing party takes control in January. Democrats are intensely interested in the president's business ventures, as well as his tax returns. The current OMB director will also have to aid the president as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation progresses apace, and Mr. Trump declares it a "witch hunt."

Mulvaney reports for duty when Kelly departs at the end of the year.

Sara Cook contributed to this report.

First published on December 14, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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