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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has committed to remaining in his post through the 2020 election, according to two White House officials. Kelly, who hit his one-year mark in the White House on Monday, had been expected to step aside as early as this summer.
But President Donald Trump, who asked Kelly to stay on, had in recent weeks been canvassing advisors about a shortlist of potential Kelly replacements, sources say.
Among those potential picks, according to three Trump associates and two White House officials: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as well as Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in addition to budget director Mick Mulvaney and Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.
Multiple advisors told the President not to vacate a role that requires a Senate confirmation – like Mulvaney's or Mnuchin's – to fill the chief of staff position, which doesn't require one.
The President's interest in Mnuchin or Meadows for the chief role has not been previously reported. The news of Kelly's commitment was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Meadows told CNBC that he had not discussed the role with the president.
"I generally don't talk about conversations I have or don't have with the President, but I can assure you that we have not had any conversations about replacing John Kelly," Meadows told CNBC. Meadows said he believes Trump is well-served by his current chief.
Kelly's imminent departure had been predicted amid reports that Trump had increasingly pushed Kelly out of the picture. Administration officials regard Kelly's attempts to bring order to the chaotic White House as a failure, a Sunday article in Politico said, citing a dozen people in and out of the Trump administration. Though, they said, the White House was running more smoothly than when Kelly arrived a year ago.
To be sure, the news that Kelly has accepted the president's offer to stay on board does not eliminate the possibility that he could resign or be fired. One advisor, partly joking, told CNBC that the president could still choose to fire Kelly even though Kelly has "agreed" to remain.
The president has a track record of praising administration officials before they hit the chopping block.
After Kelly joined the White House last summer, raising the specter that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon could be forced out, Trump said of Bannon: "I like him. He's a good man." Bannon was fired three days later.
The Trump administration has been plagued by rapid turnover in key positions. In its first year, the White House saw a higher turnover rate for senior officials than any of the previous five administrations, according to a Brookings Institution study.