Pence aide out of running to be Trump's next chief of staff

Pence aide out of running to be Trump's next chief of staff
FILE - In a Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 file photo, Nick Ayers, right, listens as Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch waits for the arrival of the casket for former President George H.W. Bush to lie in State at the Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump's top pick to replace John Kelly as chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is no longer expected to fill that role, according to a White House official. The official says that Trump and Ayers could not agree on Ayers' length of service. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool, File) (Jabin Botsford)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump evaluated new candidates to serve as his next chief of staff Sunday after plans for an orderly succession for departing John Kelly fell through.

The new hire was to be key to a West Wing reshuffling to shift focus toward the 2020 re-election campaign and the challenge of governing with Democrats in control of the House.

But even senior White House officials were caught off guard Sunday when Trump and Nick Ayers, whose hiring was believed to be a done deal, couldn't come to terms. No obvious successor was in sight and there was some fretting that Trump may not be able to fill the job by the time Kelly was set to leave around year's end.

Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was seen as the favorite for the job when Trump announced Saturday that Kelly would step down. But a White House official said Sunday that Trump and Ayers could not reach agreement on Ayers' length of service and that he would instead assist the president from outside the administration.

Ayers confirmed the decision in a tweet, thanking Trump and Pence for giving him the opportunity to work in the White House. "I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause," he said.

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2017 file photo, Vice President Mike Pence, left, attends a meeting with Georgia opposition leaders in Tbilisi, Georgia. Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Nick Ayers, is right. Ayers, President Donald Trump's top pick to replace John Kelly as chief of staff, is no longer expected to fill that role, according to a White House official. The official says that Trump and Ayers could not agree on Ayers' length of service. (Zurab Kurtsikidze/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2017 file photo, Vice President Mike Pence, left, attends a meeting with Georgia opposition leaders in Tbilisi, Georgia. Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Nick Ayers, is right. Ayers, President Donald Trump's top pick to replace John Kelly as chief of staff, is no longer expected to fill that role, according to a White House official. The official says that Trump and Ayers could not agree on Ayers' length of service. (Zurab Kurtsikidze/Pool Photo via AP, File) (AP)

In a tweet of his own, Trump laid out the agenda: "I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff. Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda. I will be making a decision soon!"

With Ayers out of the running, Trump was considering four candidates for the post, including Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, according to a person familiar with the president's thinking. Also emerging as a candidate was Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

In this June 21, 2018 photo, White House chief of staff John Kelly listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Trump says chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job at the end of the year.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In this June 21, 2018 photo, White House chief of staff John Kelly listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Trump says chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job at the end of the year.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP)

But Mulvaney was not interested in becoming chief of staff, according to a person close to him who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mulvaney has been saying for almost two months now that he would be more interested in becoming commerce or treasury secretary if that would be helpful to the president, the person said.

Also among those thought to be in the mix were Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who said in a CBS interview that he hadn't spoken to anyone at the White House about the job and was "entirely focused" on his position. A person familiar with Mnuchin's thinking said he, too, was happy with his work at Treasury and had not sought the job of chief of staff.

In this Nov. 1, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump walks in to the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, to talk about immigration and border security. Chief of Staff John Kelly is at right. Trump says chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job at the end of the year.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In this Nov. 1, 2018 photo, President Donald Trump walks in to the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, to talk about immigration and border security. Chief of Staff John Kelly is at right. Trump says chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job at the end of the year.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP)

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Trump's former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, were also among the names being floated by those close to the White House.

Trump wants his next chief of staff to hold the job through the 2020 election, said the White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the personnel issue by name and, as did others, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Graphic shows high profile staff changes in the Trump administration; 5c x 6 1/2 inches; 245.5 mm x 165 mm;
Graphic shows high profile staff changes in the Trump administration; 5c x 6 1/2 inches; 245.5 mm x 165 mm; (AP)

Ayers and Trump had discussed the job for months. The father of young triplets, he had long planned to leave the administration at the end of the year, and had only agreed to serve in an interim basis through next spring.

Ayers will run a pro-Trump super PAC, according to a person familiar with his plans who was not authorized to discuss them by name.

President Donald Trump talks to media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, for the short trip to Andrews Air Force Base en route to Philadelphia to attend the Army-Navy Football Game. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump talks to media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, for the short trip to Andrews Air Force Base en route to Philadelphia to attend the Army-Navy Football Game. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (AP)

Kelly, whose last day on the job is set to be Jan. 2, had been credited with imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his post as homeland security secretary. But his iron fist also alienated some longtime Trump allies, and over time he grew increasingly isolated, with an increasingly diminished role.

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President Donald Trump greets people after arriving via Air Force One at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. Trump is attending the Army-Navy football game. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump greets people after arriving via Air Force One at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. Trump is attending the Army-Navy football game. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP)

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