Politics: ‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff - PressFrom - US
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Politics‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff

02:40  15 july  2019
02:40  15 july  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Friday that he had selected Mick Mulvaney , his budget director, to serve as acting White House chief of staff , putting a halt — at least for now — to his consideration of a parade of possible candidates, including several who turned him down

President Trump said Friday evening that Mick Mulvaney , his director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be the acting Kelly was Trump ' s second chief of staff in just two years in a White House that has had extraordinarily high levels of turnover. Kelly, a retired Marine general who led the

‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney listens as President Trump speaks with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro in the Oval Office on March 19.

Mick Mulvaney’s battles with Alexander Acosta began almost immediately.

Weeks after he was named acting White House chief of staff, Mulvaney summoned the labor secretary for a tense January encounter that became known inside the West Wing as “the woodshed meeting.”

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Trump and Mulvaney hardly knew each other when the incoming president asked him to serve as his budget director. Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, was angling for the job for months, but when Trump offered it to him last weekend he declined.

Mick Mulvaney will become the acting White House chief of staff at the end of the year, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Friday.

Mulvaney told Acosta in blunt terms that the White House believed he was dragging his feet on regulation rollbacks desired by business interests and that he was on thin ice as a result, according to advisers and a person close to the White House. Soon after, Acosta proposed a spate of business-friendly rules on overtime pay and other policies.

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But it wasn’t enough to save Acosta from Mulvaney’s ire — and helps explain why the former federal prosecutor had such tepid administration support last week as he resigned over his handling of a high-profile sex-crimes case more than a decade ago.

The episode illustrates the growing influence wielded by Mulvaney, a former tea-party lawmaker who has built what one senior administration official called “his own fiefdom” centered on pushing conservative policies — while mostly steering clear of the Trump-related pitfalls that tripped up his predecessors by employing a “Let Trump be Trump” ethos.

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This account of Mulvaney’s rising power is based on interviews with 32 White House aides, current and former administration officials, lawmakers and legislative staffers, some of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly. Mulvaney and the White House declined to make him available for an interview.

Mulvaney — who is technically on leave from his first administration job as budget director — spends considerably less time with Trump than the two previous chiefs of staff, Reince Priebus and John F. Kelly. And the president has sometimes kept him out of the loop when making contentious foreign policy decisions, advisers say. At a recent donor retreat in Chicago, Mulvaney told attendees that he does not seek to control the president’s tweeting, time or family, one attendee said. Priebus and Kelly had clashed with the president over his Twitter statements and the influence of his eldest daughter and her husband, who are senior advisers.

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As President Trump heads into the fight of his political life, the man he had hoped would help guide him through it has now turned him down, and he finds himself in the unaccustomed position of having no obvious second option.

Instead, Mulvaney has focused much of his energy on creating a new White House power center revolving around the long-dormant Domestic Policy Council and encompassing broad swaths of the administration. One White House official described Mulvaney as “building an empire for the right wing.”

He has helped install more than a dozen ideologically aligned advisers in the West Wing since his December hiring. Cabinet members are pressed weekly on what regulations they can strip from the books and have been told their performance will be judged on how many they remove. Policy and spending decisions are now made by the White House and dictated to Cabinet agencies, instead of vice versa. When Mulvaney cannot be in the Oval Office for a policy meeting, one of his allies is usually there.

“You have a chief of staff with a professional commitment to ensuring that a real policy agenda gets enacted,” said Charmaine Yoest, who served in senior roles in the Trump White House and at Health and Human Services before moving to the Heritage Foundation. “You’ve got to dig in, chart a path forward and stay committed to it, and we welcome his serious approach to policymaking.”

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The mall never got built . And Mulvaney moved on, building a political career as a firebrand fiscal hawk and tea party pioneer in Congress who railed against out-of-control government deficits — eventually rising a few weeks ago to be President Trump ’ s acting chief of staff . Fonville, however, said his

Mick Mulvaney , President Trump ’ s acting chief of staff , has assumed a central role in Mr. Trump ’ s circle.CreditCreditTom Brenner for He has engaged in team- building exercises like retreats at Camp David, most recently last week to discuss efforts to create a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

But Mulvaney also faces significant obstacles on Capitol Hill, where he made enemies on both sides of the aisle during his three terms as a bomb-throwing House conservative. Democrats openly disdain him as a saboteur, while many key Republicans distrust his willingness to compromise, particularly on fiscal policy. Some GOP senators freely signal they would rather deal with any other administration official than him.

Mulvaney spends more time in his office than his predecessors, feeling no need to sit in on all of Trump’s meetings. He regularly huddles with Joe Grogan, a hard-liner who now leads the domestic council, and Russell T. Vought, a conservative ally who runs the Office of Management and Budget in Mulvaney’s absence.

Advisers say a whiteboard in Mulvaney’s office has two items with stars beside them: immigration and health care. Immigration, however, is largely left to top White House adviser Stephen Miller and, to a lesser extent, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, with dim prospects for significant legislation on Capitol Hill. Passing any kind of health-care bill before the 2020 election is also unlikely, aides say, while budget cuts sought by Vought have died quickly in Congress.

‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post From left, Eric Trump, White House adviser Jared Kushner, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Pence talk before President Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 6.

Mulvany’s biggest successes so far have come in deregulation efforts, where he prods agencies to move faster in case Trump loses or Democrats win the Senate in 2020, advisers say.

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Trump tweeted that Mulvaney will replace his current chief of staff , John Kelly, "who has served our country with distinction." .I look forward to working with him in Ayers, who had cited family concerns as a reason why he didn't accept the post, tweeted Friday: " The right father of triplets got the job."

President Donald Trump has named Mick Mulvaney his acting White House chief of staff , replacing John Kelly who is leaving the position by the end of Mulvaney will maintain his OMB position, "but will spend all of his time devoted to his role as the acting Chief Of Staff for the President," according

Aside from the domestic policy shop, Mulvaney has also tapped allies to fill roles in the White House’s legislative affairs operation, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and his old haunts at OMB. He regularly suggests ideas to all of them.

“What I am seeing is that Mulvaney cares about the domestic agencies much more than the prior chiefs of staff did,” said Tammy McCutchen, a former Labor Department official in the George W. Bush administration who is now a partner at the Littler Mendelson law firm. “They’re holding the agencies accountable to move forward on regulations.”

In the past two months, he has forced out the chiefs of staff at Health and Human Services and the Labor Department amid policy disputes with them and their respective secretaries. Mulvaney and Grogan have repeatedly clashed with HHS Secretary Alex Azar, overruling him, for example, on ending the funding of medical research by government scientists using fetal tissue.

Emma Doyle, Mulvaney’s deputy, has sought to control all presidential events and the president’s schedule — asking officials to submit formal proposals for why they should be in the room and controlling who is usually in the room. She also leads a weekly meeting on presidential events. Doyle was recently in charge of a review of the president’s immigration agencies and led a months-long hunt earlier this year for who was leaking the president’s internal schedules.

“Everything is controlled. The only people not under his thumb are Kudlow and Bolton,” said one senior administration official, referring to economic adviser Larry Kudlow and national security adviser John Bolton.

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President Trump on Friday named budget director Mick Mulvaney as his acting White House chief of staff , capping off a week of frenzied speculation about who would take over the key West Wing role.

Trump added that his current chief of staff , John Kelly, will be staying until the end of the year. “He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank Trump ’ s first pick for the job, Vice President Mike Pence’ s chief of staff Nick Ayers, took himself out of the running last weekend and decided to leave

Where Priebus and Kelly were more deferential to Cabinet members, Mulvaney has told them they are being judged on how much they can deregulate, with the policy council monitoring them daily. He is pushing for faster rollbacks of rules enacted by former president Barack Obama before Trump’s first term ends, such as restricting what falls under the Clean Water Act and halting implementation of higher fuel-economy standards, according to administration officials.

The president has blessed Mulvaney’s operation, White House aides said, and Trump considers his chief of staff an emissary to movement conservatives who have been vital to his presidency. But some Trump advisers say the president has no idea what Mulvaney and his aides do all day.

‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff© Kevin Lamarque/Reuters White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney walk from the Marine One helicopter as they depart Washington with President Trump for the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 26.

Mulvaney and Vought, among others, have sought to convince Trump to care more about cutting spending and the deficit. But Trump has rebuffed many of their proposed cuts as deficits soar.

Trump recently told West Wing aides that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told him no politician had ever lost office for spending more money. Two people with direct knowledge confirmed that McConnell delivered that message in a June phone call about budget sequestration.

Although pleasing to businesses, Mulvaney’s efforts are also heartening to social conservatives, who say they are finding a more open reception than before.

For instance, a new rule released in May gives health-care providers, insurers and employers greater latitude to refuse coverage for medical services they say violate their religious or moral beliefs. That policy is facing legal challenges. The same month, the White House proposed a rollback of Obama-era rules that banned discrimination against transgender medical patients. Another rule, also being challenged in the courts, bans taxpayer-funded clinics from making abortion referrals.

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“We’re just taking the president’s challenge seriously to look everywhere and come up with options for deregulation that spurs economic growth,” Vought said in an interview. “You have an administration that’s in sync and everyone is talking to each other.

Mulvaney — who has acknowledged to other advisers he knows little about foreign policy — has installed a deputy for national security, Rob Blair, who regularly battles with Bolton and his allies. Mulvaney and Bolton are barely on speaking terms, and Blair has regularly challenged Bolton’s subordinates, according to people familiar with the relationship.

‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post From left, President Trump, White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, and budget director Mick Mulvaney sit for a radio interview in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in October 2017.

Mulvaney has also been a key backer internally of Halil Suleyman Ozerden, whom Trump nominated for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month despite misgivings from conservatives, according to people familiar with the matter. Ozerden and Mulvaney have known each other for years and Mulvaney was a groomsman in Ozerden’s wedding. Mulvaney vouched for him in a private conversation with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the committee that will take up Ozerden’s nomination.

The former House Freedom Caucus member’s sway in Congress is clearly limited, however. GOP aides routinely trash Mulvaney in private and say he has done little to improve his image from his House days, when he was a leading antagonist in forcing government shutdowns and other hardball tactics. McConnell has told others on Capitol Hill that he would prefer to deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff© Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock In this file photo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney (L) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (C) leave the Capitol after a budget meeting with congressional leaders last month.

In a recent interview, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) paused for 10 seconds when asked whether Mulvaney was a productive force, particularly during a meeting with key principals in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in June.

Shelby finally responded that Mulvaney was “engaged” before pointing out that Mnuchin was the lead negotiator on behalf of the administration in the fiscal talks.

The bad blood between Mulvaney and Democrats is even more obvious.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) recalled being pleasantly surprised when the White House reached out to a half-dozen deal-minded Democratic senators in April, wanting to discuss the influx of migrant children at the border.

But he said there was no follow-up from the White House. Later, Tester saw Mulvaney on television complaining that the administration had met with Democrats on the border problems but that they weren’t working to address them.

“I think it was about Mulvaney being able to get on national TV and say, ‘We met with the Democrats,’ ” Tester said. “It was apparent to me that that was the political agenda behind it. It wasn’t about getting anything done. It was about laying blame.”

Mulvaney appears fully aware of his shortcomings with lawmakers, joking to others in the White House about his unpopularity on Capitol Hill. “I know they’d rather deal with Mnuchin,” Mulvaney has said, according to two White House officials.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who served in the House with Mulvaney, praised his performance but noted that senators are also able to talk to the president directly about any concerns.

‘His own fiefdom’: Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff© Melina Mara/The Washington Post Then-budget director Mick Mulvaney explains the administration's 2018 budget to the House Budget Committee in May 2017.

“He’s not there to be a clerk. He’s there to lead,” Cramer said. “But I think it’s also clear that when the president says this is the position, that Mick’s more than capable of carrying out the president’s position. And I suspect in some cases they’re far apart — but in most cases they’re pretty well in line.”

Mulvaney’s relationship with Trump has had its rocky moments. During a recent ABC News interview, the president berated Mulvaney on camera for coughing.

But the two men are unlikely to part ways, advisers say, partially because Mulvaney knows when to leave Trump alone — and is a good golfer.

“He takes the phrase chief of staff in the literal way. He’s the chief of the staff. He’s not chief of the president,” said Jonathan Slemrod, who led congressional outreach for Mulvaney at OMB until November. “He thinks Trump is a political genius and doesn’t second-guess a lot of his decisions.”

For his part, Mulvaney has joked about being an acting chief of staff, arguing there is no practical difference.

“You could make me the permanent chief of staff tomorrow and he could fire me on Thursday,” Mulvaney said of Trump at a June 11 fiscal summit sponsored by the Peterson Foundation. “Or you could leave me as the acting chief of staff and I could stay to the second term. It doesn’t make any difference.”

He added, “I’ll stay as long as I feel like he values my opinion and I like working for him, and both those things are happening right now.”

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Robert Costa contributed to this report.

Conservatives balk at proposed debt limit, budget deal.
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