But the president is unlikely to replace his acting chief of staff for the foreseeable future, because finding a fourth chief of staff would be a heavy lift.
President Donald Trump’s honeymoon period with Mick Mulvaney is coming to an end.
In recent weeks, Trump has been snapping at his acting chief of staff with some frequency, and expressing greater frustration with him than usual, according to four current and former senior administration officials.
Trump has long said that he prefers the flexibility offered by temporary titles, but Mulvaney’s ongoing “acting” status underscores the uphill battle he faces as Trump’s third chief of staff in less than two-and-a-half years. While Mulvaney is not in danger of losing his job any time soon, officials stressed, Trump’s treatment of him still signals to aides the slow deterioration of their relationship has begun.
One White House official called it “inevitable since any chief of staff has to deliver both the good and bad news,” and this president does not like hearing the latter. Other senior administration officials said Trump gets annoyed with almost everyone apart from family members, so measuring someone’s internal standing by how often Trump speaks sharply to him or her is futile.
But speculation about Mulvaney’s standing with Trump jumped into the public eye earlier this month when the president called out his acting chief of staff for coughing during an interview with ABC News. Even though some saw the incident as reflective of Trump’s general disdain for germs, others viewed it as Trump’s private vexation spilling over.
“The president doesn’t have any good reason to dislike Mulvaney in terms of him being disloyal,” said one Republican close to the White House. Still, the Republican added that the president has asked people in recent months what kind of leadership they think Mulvaney is offering in the West Wing and the value he is adding, often a sign the president is souring on a staffer.
More broadly, several staffers have begun to murmur about Mulvaney’s approach to the job, arguing he’s grown too accustomed to the trappings of White House power. Mulvaney and his top aides have stacked the West Wing so far with 11 loyal staffers from the Office of Management and Budget, where he previously worked. Additionally, he has used Camp David — typically a getaway spot for presidents, not staffers — to host three different retreats with White House senior staff, top health care officials and congressional lawmakers. This, combined with his tendency to load up Air Force One trips with favored administration aides, has made him a target of criticism among some West Wing staff.
Mulvaney’s public criticism of his predecessors like John Kelly has also grated on some staffers. Kelly was not popular among West Wing aides by the end, but staffers still consider Mulvaney’s recent barbs unnecessary.
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