WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump told Republican U.S. Representative Mark Meadows that he wants him to stay in Congress rather than take the White House chief of staff job, White House officials said on Wednesday.
Meadows had been among 10 or 12 people that Trump is considering for the post that retired General John Kelly is leaving early in 2019.
Former Trump campaign adviser David Bossie, who is now the president of conservative nonprofit Citizens United, is still believed to be in the running.
The search to fill the top administrative post in the West Wing comes as Democrats prepare to take control of the House of Representatives in January and begin investigating Trump’s businesses and some of his most contentious policies.
Bossie wrote an opinion piece for Fox News published on Wednesday with the headline: “An unhinged pack of liberal Democrats wants to impeach Trump. Republicans must fight back.”
Trump and Meadows, a North Carolina lawmaker who heads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, had a phone conversation to discuss the job, one White House official said.
“Congressman Mark Meadows is a great friend to President Trump and is doing an incredible job in Congress. The president told him we need him in Congress so he can continue the great work he is doing there,” the official said.
Meadows said in a tweeted statement that he was committed to staying in Congress.
“I know the president has a long list of tremendous candidates for his next chief of staff, and whomever it is will have my total support going forward,” he said.
Trump told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that he was having no trouble recruiting people for one of the most powerful jobs in Washington. Some potential candidates like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have offered polite no-thank-yous.
“I have so many people, I cannot interview them all,” Trump told Reuters.
Kelly, Trump’s second chief of staff, after Reince Priebus, had tried to bring more discipline to the chaotic Trump White House and frequently found himself at odds with the president.
Trump said last Saturday that Kelly would be departing the job. But he was left without a clear replacement after Nick Ayers, currently chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, declined the job and said on Sunday he was returning to Georgia with his family at the end of the year.
Beyond Bossie, Trump is also considering former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, sources said.
Bossie is a close ally of Corey Lewandowski, a confidant of Trump, and Bossie and Lewandowski were together at a rally in Louisiana on Wednesday.
A source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Lewandowski told the crowd at the rally that Bossie would soon be joining the administration. But Lewandowski later told Reuters he had not said that.
Bossie could not be immediately reached for comment.
In his opinion piece, Bossie warned Republicans in the House to prepare for “hand-to-hand combat, the likes of which they’ve never seen.”
“After eight long years in the political wilderness, these House Democrats are about to take things straight into the gutter,” he wrote. “They have no choice; their radical base wants impeachment at any cost, as do some of their biggest donors.”
Reporting by Steve Holland, Jeff Mason and Ginger Gibson; Writing by Eric Beech and Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney