Trump taps budget head Mulvaney as acting chief of staff16 December 2018 AFP, Washington
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney speaking at a press briefing.
Donald Trump announced Friday that his budget director Mick Mulvaney will step in as acting chief of staff to replace John Kelly - amid indications the president is struggling to fill the key post.
Trump, whose presidency is increasingly embroiled in legal troubles, announced earlier this month that Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, was leaving.
Kelly, who reportedly fell out with other close Trump aides, is only the latest in a long string of high-ranking officials to quit the embattled White House.
"Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration," Trump said on Twitter. "I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
"John will be staying until the end of the year. He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!"
Kelly agreed to stay on until at least January 2 to avoid leaving the president in the lurch.
However, even with several weeks' notice, Trump appears to be having difficulty in finding the right replacement.
"For the record, there were MANY people who wanted to be the White House Chief of Staff. Mick M will do a GREAT job!" Trump wrote.
His widely reported first choice, Nick Ayres, announced last weekend that he did not want the post.
Ayres, a 36-year-old Republican consultant currently serving as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was seen as a good fit for Trump's plan to start focusing on his 2020 re-election.
With Democrats taking over the House of Representatives in January and special prosecutor Robert Mueller near the end of an explosive probe into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia during the 2016 election, the president is believed to be seeking a sharp political operator.
A major Republican figure, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, announced Friday that he too was pulling out from consideration.
It was not immediately clear where Mulvaney fits into those longer-term plans.
Mulvaney, a conservative Republican former congressman, is currently head of the White House budget management office, which oversees federal spending and administers the federal budget.
He was also previously acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protects consumers when they take loans and use credit cards.
While in the job, Mulvaney provoked anger in the Democratic Party with his campaign to downgrade the agency.
His new appointment appears to give Trump some breathing space ahead of the holidays, which the president will spend mostly at his Florida resort.
But a question still hangs on who can do the difficult job in the long term. Kelly was often described as "the adult in the room" during the turbulent period since his appointment in July 2017.
Kelly was widely seen as a stabilizing force in a chaotic and leaky White House when he took over from former Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
While still running the Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney also served as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the past year until this week.
Earlier Friday, famously unpopular former New Jersey governor Chris Christie declined Trump's offer to be chief of staff. The president met with Christie on Thursday and Mulvaney on Friday.
"It's an honor to have the president consider me as he looks to choose a new White House chief of staff," Christie said in a statement. "However, I've told the president that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment. As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post."
In an interview with Fox News this week, Trump said that his ideal candidate was "somebody that's strong, but I want somebody that thinks like I do."