After Thursday's slow-motion disaster of a press conference by Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in which he said that the White House had withheld nearly $400 million in funds to Ukraine, some of Donald Trump’s "closest associates" are said to be assembling a list of possible replacements if the president decides to replace Mulvaney, Bloomberg reported citing three sources.
Potential replacement candidates include Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and veteran political operative Wayne Berman, now a senior managing director for government relations at Blackstone.
While Trump has yet to disclose whether he found Mulvaney's comments last week - which boosted the case for impeachment as they confirmed the scenario proposed by Democrats - unacceptable, some White House aides have voiced their displeasure with Mulvaney’s performance at Thursday's presser, in which Mulvaney said "I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy." The press conference was to announce that Trump’s Doral golf resort had been chosen to host the 2020 Group of Seven summit of world leaders, a decision the president reversed in a tweet late Saturday night following a torrent of criticism.
If the Doral decision hadn’t been made when it was, “we wouldn’t have had the press conference on Thursday regarding -- regarding everything else,” Mulvaney said on Fox. “But that’s fine.”
Indeed "it was made", and Mulvaney's Thursday comment sparked a firestorm of criticism, and he was forced to not only issue a follow-up statement explaining he did not say mean what he, in fact, said, but the chief of staff had to defend himself repeatedly during the weekend's media circuit.
Yet while Trump has been largely silent on the latest fiasco, Mulvaney may be on his way out on general principle as Trump has "recently been unhappy with Mulvaney for other reasons" including the White House’s slow response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Sept. 24 announcement of an impeachment inquiry into the president, according to Bloomberg.
Or maybe not: the same Bloomberg sources said Mulvaney has various allies in and close to the White House who may rally around him, including Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; Joe Grogan of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council; and Patrick Pizzella, a former Deputy Secretary of Labor. Some Mulvaney boosters pin blame for a flat-footed impeachment strategy on White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. They said that Cipollone has a bunker mentality and has kept the White House on lock down, preventing allies from going out to fight for the president.
One thing we know for sure is that Mulvaney won't be resigning on his own: on Sunday, he said he hasn’t offered his resignation to Trump over Thursday’s press briefing.
“Did I have the perfect press conference, no,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I still think I’m doing a pretty good job as the chief of staff, and I think the president agrees.”
Mulvaney became Trump’s third chief of staff after the departure in January of General John Kelly. The position doesn’t require Congressional approval, yet Trump has never elevated Mulvaney beyond an “acting” role. Trump fired his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, via Twitter in July 2017.