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Why Does No One Want the Least Secure Job in Washington?

Trump is still searching for a chief of staff, with potential candidates taking their name out of the running left and right

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at a news conference with President Donald Trump, April 2018.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly at a news conference with President Donald Trump, April 2018.

Susan Walsh/AP/Shutterstock

Update: Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, has agreed to take the worst job in Washington, at least for now.

It’s unclear whether Mulvaney will only serve as chief of staff until President Trump can find a permanent replacement, or if Mulvaney will occupy the role indefinitely.

Original post below.

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year. The search for his replacement doesn’t seem to be going very well. Though Trump claimed on Tuesday that “many, over ten” candidates are “vying for and wanting” the job, the New York Times reported a day earlier that the process has been fraught. According to the Times, the president had no “plan B” after his top pick, VP Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, turned down the job. The result has been a week full of speculation over an increasingly ludicrous list of candidates, most of whom don’t seem to even want the job. The most recent figure to step out of the clown car is Chris Christie, the disgraced former governor of New Jersey who was abruptly booted from Trump’s transition team, which he had been leading, almost immediately after the 2016 election.

Shortly after news broke that Christie had interviewed for the job, he pulled himself out of the running. “It’s an honor to have the President consider me as he looks to choose a new White House chief-of-staff,” he wrote in a statement. “However, I’ve told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment. As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post.”

The fact that Christie was even considered is a sign of how desperate the president is. Christie and Jared Kushner don’t exactly have a sterling relationship. When Christie was a U.S. attorney, he prosecuted Kushner’s father, Charles, on criminal tax evasion and witness tampering charges, for which he received a two-year prison sentence. Kushner never forgot what he perceived as “unjust” treatment of his father, and when Christie was jettisoned from the transition team following the 2016 election, it was reportedly the doing of Trump’s son-in-law. It’s hard to imagine installing Christie as the chief of staff of an administration in which Kushner plays a prominent role wouldn’t have ended horribly. Then again, the other names reportedly under consideration don’t inspire much more confidence.

On Wednesday, Newt Gingrich and his wife Calista visited the White House, fueling speculation. But the former House Speaker and ardent Trump defender later told Fox News that he wasn’t interested in the position, and that he was only at the White House “wandering around looking at [Christmas] decorations.” A day later, world-class Trump sycophant Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was spotted entering the White House, although it’s unclear whether the trip was related to the position. Gaetz’s colleague in the House of Representatives, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), was thought to be a leading contender, but Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier this week that the president would rather Meadows continue to do his bidding in Congress.

Around the same time Gaetz strolled into the White House, it was reported that Trump was considering Kushner to fill the position, and that he’d met with the president to discuss the promotion on Wednesday. Prior to joining the Trump administration, Kushner was best known as a New York City property developer. His botched deal at 666 Fifth Avenue was widely regarded as one of the biggest Manhattan real-estate mishaps in recent years. As a senior adviser to Trump, Kushner has taken up issues like criminal justice reform and bringing peace to the Middle East. It’s unclear whether a potential gig as chief of staff would distract him from his work on these fronts. It may be a moot question. On Friday, White House Counsel Kellyanne Conway said that she hasn’t “heard either Jared or the president mention Jared Kushner on the list.”

Who’s left? There’s Andrew Whitaker, the fraud-friendly Mueller critic currently serving as attorney general of the United States. Trump’s former deputy campaign manager David Bossie has been mentioned, as well, although Politico reported this week that Trump’s family disapproves of him and that the president is “only ‘going through the motions’ with an old friend out of appreciation for his loyalty.” Top administration officials like Mick Mulvaney, Steve Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer have also been mentioned, although there have been indications that none of them are actually interested in the position. Same goes for Randy Levine, the New York Yankees president whose name was floated earlier this week before he tamped down speculation.

Despite the lack of interest in opening oneself up to whatever criminal liability could result from such a close proximity to the president’s dealings, Trump announced on Thursday that he is now considering five candidates. No one, including top administration aides, seems to know who they are, though. In an interview with Harris Faulkner on Fox News, the president only managed that he wants someone “strong” and who thinks like he does.

If all else fails, there is one person who would happily take the job: disgraced Major League Baseball slugger Jose Canseco.

Yes, Canseco was a notorious steroid user, but he hit 462 home runs across 17 big-league seasons. If it’s strength the president craves, he could do worse.

This post has been updated.

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