House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows wrote a secret memo last month about how House Republicans could counter Democratic plans to investigate and potentially impeach Donald Trump.
Now, the president is eyeing the North Carolina Republican — one of his closest allies on Capitol Hill — to replace outgoing chief of staff John Kelly, in part because of that insight.
“Serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor,” Meadows told POLITICO Playbook. “The President has a long list of qualified candidates and I know he’ll make the best selection for his administration and for the country.”
Should Trump tap Meadows for the job, he’d be securing an astute political operative who’s made it his mission to defend Trump from embarrassing headlines.
Meadows and his best friend, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Fox News TV star and hero on the right, have almost single-handedly pushed Republican chairmen and GOP leaders to start counter-investigations of the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation, a key talking point for Trump, who has panned the probe as a “witch hunt.”
The duo is often on TV assailing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and touting Trump’s legislative achievements. And with Mueller closing in on Trump and newly empowered Democrats eager to highlight scandal out of the West Wing, Meadows’ knowledge of Congress and willingness to fight for him have appealed to Trump, White House insiders say.
“He’d have a keen sense of what to do, what groups to engage with, what events to hold, going into a hyperpolitical time,” said a White House official who asked not to be named. “He also knows oversight better than most. Going into a Democratic House takeover, he would know tools Republicans have at their disposal to push back on Democrats better than anyone.”
Some top Trump allies are publicly urging the president to pick Meadows.
“Meadows understands the oversight process, the media and how to pick fights we can win,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who said he’s doing “all I can to encourage the president to pick him.” “I lobbied the president the best way I know how. I made the Meadows case on Fox News.”
Meadows’ ascent to the position is far from a done deal. Although he and Trump speak frequently, if not daily, by phone, the president is also considering several others for the job.
While sources close with Meadows believe he’s open to the job and would serve if asked, they also noted the political risks involved. The position of chief of staff was once revered, but it could amount to political suicide under Trump.
Meadows would have to relinquish his influential position in the GOP Conference, not to mention his seat in Congress, for a job that would likely be his last in politics. With allegations of collusion, corruption and campaign finance violations haunting the president, the job might quickly turn dirty — a challenging feat for a man who at times seems to be sensitive to his reputation.
Still, the opportunity might be once in a lifetime and would come as Meadows’ influence in the House is set to wane. With Republicans losing control of the chamber, the Freedom Caucus’ relevancy will be diminished.
What’s more, Meadows had initially hoped to lead Republicans on the House Oversight Committee as Trump’s top defender against Democratic investigations, which was why he recently wrote a memo on countering Democratic investigations. He stepped aside at the last minute, however, so Jordan could become ranking member of that panel.
Meadows could also face opposition from Republicans across Washington that could undercut his effectiveness as White House chief. As the Freedom Caucus leader, he’s made many enemies inside the Capitol and out and has a long, difficult relationship with the GOP establishment.
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