Amid chief of staff search, Trump increasingly anxious over political future

While President Donald Trump and ...

Posted: Dec 11, 2018 2:28 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2018 2:28 PM

While President Donald Trump and Nick Ayers were still in the middle of negotiations about him replacing John Kelly as chief of staff, Trump had already given Ayers a task, according to a source familiar with the discussion. He wanted him to conduct a thorough review of how the West Wing operates, including evaluating staffing, in order to make it more politically focused over the next two years.

Trump has become increasingly concerned in recent weeks about what his administration is facing come January, when newly empowered Democrats are expected to unleash the full force of their oversight powers on the Trump administration.

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Nick Ayers

Political Figures - US

Politics

US federal government

White House

Those include compelling Cabinet secretaries to testify, requesting the President's tax returns and scrutinizing some of his most controversial policy decisions. Trump often complained that Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, was not politically shrewd enough for the task.

The details of the President's discussions, which have not been reported on previously, reveal how close Ayers was to becoming chief of staff. He and Trump huddled several times over the last week in the residence of the White House, where they were afforded more privacy than in the staff-filled West Wing, but they ultimately could not agree to terms and Ayers declined the job.

Multiple sources familiar with Trump's mood told CNN he's frustrated with the Ayers process. One source described his mood as "super pissed." A second added he feels humiliated, a position he doesn't like to be in, because the President did not have a backup candidate prepared like he typically does when he's fielding people for jobs.

One source said Ayers got the benefit of being seen as the next chief of staff "without any of the headaches."

However, Trump's anger seems to be limited because Ayers will leave his position as Pence's chief of staff at the end of the year to run the super PAC set up to assist the President's re-election campaign.

Trump has privately told confidants he wants his new chief of staff to shift the goals of the West Wing away from legislation and toward politics, sources said. He did not outline specific things he wanted Ayers to change in the West Wing, but was generally relying on the politically savvy young aide to make changes on his own that could bolster the White House ahead of what is expected to be a tumultuous year.

Trump has remarked on several occasions that his West Wing needs aides who are more politically adept. That problem is only exacerbated by the departures of two White House aides in recent days: the political director Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, the director of the office of public liaison. Both are leaving the administration to work on Trump's re-election campaign.

And multiple White House officials have complained privately that Shahira Knight, the legislative affairs director, is more focused on the policy than navigating the political realities of Washington, including managing relationships with lawmakers.

Trump is now embarking on a hasty search for a new chief of staff with no obvious choice in mind.

He predicted Ayers would budge on his demand to be chief of staff on an interim basis, with a set departure date of this spring, and was not prepared with a second option. Kelly, who attended a holiday party at the White House Sunday night and reported to work Monday, is expected to leave at the end of the month.

CNN's Dana Bash, Jim Acosta and Gloria Borger contributed to this report.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7751171
DeSoto663677
Harrison481181
Jackson431978
Rankin380886
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Lee341379
Forrest295177
Jones283182
Washington251497
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Lamar214938
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Warren152154
Monroe144872
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Pike136455
Lincoln134854
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Marshall132626
Scott123229
Coahoma123136
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Simpson118148
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Union113925
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Adams104342
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Newton84227
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Tallahatchie81825
Winston81521
Tishomingo79040
Hancock76927
Attala76525
Clarke71448
Clay67221
Jasper66616
Walthall63327
Calhoun60912
Noxubee59516
Smith58116
Claiborne53216
Montgomery52723
Tunica51817
Lawrence49514
Yalobusha48414
Perry48022
Carroll46012
Greene45317
Stone45014
Amite41513
Quitman4136
Humphreys39916
Jefferson Davis39411
Webster36513
Wilkinson32920
Kemper31815
Benton3054
Sharkey27714
Jefferson26310
Franklin2303
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22400372
Mobile14282314
Tuscaloosa9983132
Montgomery9691196
Madison899992
Shelby703560
Lee643966
Baldwin637567
Marshall426748
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Morgan394532
Houston363132
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Elmore309552
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Limestone269227
Walker268092
Talladega255034
Cullman225823
Lauderdale206340
Autauga199928
Franklin199131
Jackson199114
Colbert190627
Russell19023
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Blount183823
Chilton180531
Escambia170928
Covington164729
Coffee16409
Dale162551
Pike130212
Chambers127343
Tallapoosa127286
Clarke126716
Marion104229
Butler99840
Barbour9819
Marengo96721
Winston89913
Geneva8337
Pickens80317
Randolph79514
Lawrence79230
Bibb78913
Hale74529
Cherokee71514
Clay70712
Lowndes69927
Bullock63517
Henry6316
Monroe6279
Washington62112
Crenshaw59030
Perry5796
Wilcox55712
Conecuh55413
Fayette54712
Macon52919
Cleburne5247
Sumter46421
Lamar4575
Choctaw38612
Greene33316
Coosa1963
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