U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) during a meeting with the House and Senate Democratic leadership in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2018.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his search for his new White House chief of staff and, without offering any names, said more than 10 people were vying for the top spot after his first choice declined over the weekend.
Trump and the outgoing chief of staff, John Kelly, reportedly had been at odds for months, but the president was left without a clear replacement after Nick Ayers declined the crucial position.
"Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position," Trump wrote in a tweet.
The opening comes as the White House braces for an onslaught of political and legal challenges in the coming year in the face of the Russia investigation, multiple lawsuits and Trump's efforts to win re-election in 2020.
On Saturday, Trump said Kelly would be leave at year's end, capping months of clashes between the president and the retired general who had been brought in to instill order to a sometimes chaotic White House after Reince Priebus left the post
Ayers, currently chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said on Sunday he was returning to Georgia with his family at the end of the year.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday said Kelly would stay on the job through Jan. 2 to lead "a very peaceful and pragmatic transition." Asked if Kelly would stay longer, she said it was up to Trump and Kelly.
Conway later told reporters at the White house that Trump's list of candidates included women but would not comment on whether she was one of them or if she was interested in the job.
Sources familiar with the search for a replacement said those Trump is considering for the job include Republican Representative Mark Meadows, former campaign adviser David Bossie, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Some possible contenders, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney have said they are not interested, sources said.
Bossie, who is a contributor for Fox News, said on Tuesday he was meeting with Trump on Friday but did not expect to be offered the job.
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a White House adviser, told Fox News on Monday night that hopefully Trump will "choose somebody he’s got great chemistry with, great relationship with, who will help him navigate the next couple years."
The chief of staff job is considered one of the most powerful in Washington, advising the president and serving as a gatekeeper controlling the flow of information and access to the Oval Office.
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