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Rep. Meadows Will Soon Be The Official White House Chief Of Staff


The White House employs about 4,000 people. It is fair to say they've been busy. Those staffers are traditionally led by the chief of staff, who is also a chief gatekeeper to the president. At a time of turmoil in this country, the chief of staff position is in transition. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has this profile of the incoming chief.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Nearly three weeks after President Trump announced via tweet that his acting chief of staff would be replaced by North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, Meadows still hasn't technically started.


MARK MEADOWS: I'm still a member of Congress.

KEITH: That was Meadows yesterday walking out of a meeting where senators and Trump administration officials had been negotiating the big financial rescue bill. Lisa Desjardins from the "PBS NewsHour" asked him about his status.


LISA DESJARDINS: Are you interim chief of staff now at the White House?

MEADOWS: Well, I'm still a member of Congress. Mick Mulvaney is still the acting chief officially.

DESJARDINS: How do you qualify what you're doing at the White House?

MEADOWS: I'm a member of Congress.

KEITH: An aide says Meadows plans to resign from Congress around the end of the month and is transitioning into the chief of staff job. He's been at the White House in and out of meetings. It's not clear yet how Meadows intends to run the White House, a notoriously difficult job even without a national crisis. But those who know him say he may be better positioned to succeed than Trump's first three chiefs of staff.

JAY SEKULOW: Mark has a really good grasp of who the president is, how the president operates.

KEITH: Jay Sekulow, one of President Trump's attorneys, worked with Meadows on impeachment. Long before being named chief of staff, Meadows talked to the president all the time. Sekulow says Trump trusts him.

SEKULOW: I feel that he will avoid any kind of problem areas. And he will not interfere with the president's operating style, which is important.

KEITH: Trump and Meadows got off to a rocky start. Just a couple of months into Trump's presidency, Meadows and the rabble-rousing House Freedom Caucus he led delivered Trump an early defeat.


HALLIE JACKSON: Tonight, the Republican plan to kill Obamacare - flatlining.

KEITH: Meadows was vocal about his opposition to the president's first try at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.


MEADOWS: I am still a "no" at this time. I'm desperately trying to get to "yes." And I think the president knows that, and I told him that personally.

KEITH: For Meadows, clashing with his party's leaders was familiar territory by that point. In 2015, he used an obscure procedure to try to oust House Speaker John Boehner. House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, who was part of Boehner's leadership team at the time, now has nothing but praise for Meadows.

STEVE SCALISE: You know, Mark's been in these positions where he'll call the president with a recommendation or an idea and the president sometimes might take it and sometimes might not. But then they're able to move forward after that.

KEITH: Several people mentioned that Meadows has relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, something his predecessors lacked. California Democrat Ro Khanna worked with Meadows on a war powers resolution that Trump ultimately vetoed.

RO KHANNA: My hope is, you know, Mark Meadows is not going to be a yes man. He is someone who will have the ability to share a candid perspective with the president. I know he has.

KEITH: But another Democratic congressman who's worked well with Meadows, Gerry Connolly from Virginia, isn't sure the dynamic will be the same when Meadows is an aide rather than an outside confidant and cable TV defender of Trump.

GERRY CONNOLLY: How do you now undertake this new role that requires very different skills and a very different role if you do your job? The country kind of depends on it. And that's an open question.

KEITH: One that will be answered as the country faces the largest public health and economic crisis in generations.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAMMAL HANDS' "BECOMING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.