He’s been on the short list a long time, almost as long as the man he’s replacing has had the job. Now Mark Meadows moves to the inner sanctum of the Trump administration as the president’s fourth chief of staff. Meadows had already announced his retirement from Congress in December, which means that this move won’t have any direct electoral impact on House Republicans’ attempts to regain the majority:
President Donald Trump announced Friday night on Twitter that Rep. Mark Meadows will become White House chief of staff. “I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one,” he said of the North Carolina Republican. “I want to thank Acting Chief Mick Mulvaney for having served the Administration so well. He will become the United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.”
Meadows, who was first elected to North Carolina’s 11th District in 2012, told CQ Roll Call in 2019 that he had actually been considering retiring last cycle. When he decided to run for a fourth term in 2018, he had a strong inclination it would be his last race.
Meadows should make for a smooth fit for Trump, being one of his firmest allies on Capitol Hill. Fox News calls this a “surprise announcement,” but it’s not that much of a surprise. Perhaps the only thing surprising about it is that Meadows agreed to do it; it seemed as though he was content to leave Washington DC. Unlike with Mulvaney, Meadows isn’t starting off with an “acting” tag either, so both men plan to keep the arrangement for a significant amount of time, apparently. (Voters will have something to say about how long in November, of course.)
The more surprising aspect of this announcement is what Mulvaney will do next. Or, er, concurrently. Maybe?
….I want to thank Acting Chief Mick Mulvaney for having served the Administration so well. He will become the United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2020
As Fox also notes, Mulvaney was more than just chief of staff — he’s still OMB Director, too. That was supposed to be his primary job until Trump dropped the “acting” tag on his term as CoS. It seems almost unthinkable that Mulvaney would try to do both OMB and this special-envoy job, an ambassadorial-rank position that has gone unfilled until now since Trump took office. Until today, it appeared that Trump didn’t have any interest at all in engaging on these issues.
What seems especially curious about this sudden move to fill the position is that it comes so soon after Mulvaney was quoted as saying that the US was “desperate” to expand immigration. That was just two weeks ago. Now Mulvaney’s going to Northern Ireland, and his replacement is immigration hardliner Mark Meadows. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s also possible that Mulvaney really wanted a new job, too. He’s also been frustrated by a lack of seriousness over deficit spending — in fact, his accusations of Republican hypocrisy on the subject came up in the same event as his comments on immigration. Belfast is a strange place to go if Mulvaney’s frustrated about either topic, though.