Trump picks Mick Mulvaney to be next chief of staff

In this file photo taken on January 20, 2018, Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, speaks during a briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018

Trump picks Mick Mulvaney to be next chief of staff

  • Christie’s departure is the latest twist in a search triggered when Trump’s preferred candidate to replace Kelly bowed out

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday picked budget director Mick Mulvaney to be his next chief of staff, ending a chaotic search that had been inching forward with the feel of an unfolding reality TV show.
Trump tweeted that Mulvaney “will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction.”
“Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration,” Trump posted. “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!“
Though deemed an “acting” chief of staff, Mulvaney’s term will be open-ended, according to a senior White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. The position does not require confirmation.
Mulvaney, who will be Trump’s third chief of staff, will now take on his third job in the administration; he is the head of the Office of Management and had simultaneously led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
A former Tea Party congressman, was among a faction on the hard right that bullied GOP leaders into a 2013 government shutdown confrontation by insisting on lacing a must-pass spending bill with provisions designed to cripple President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
The appointment of the affable, fast-talking South Carolinian came just hours after another candidate for the post, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, took himself out of contention for the job. Christie cited family reasons in a statement saying that he was asking Trump to remove him from consideration. He had met with Trump on Thursday to discuss the job, according to a person familiar with the meeting who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Christie’s departure is the latest twist in a search triggered when Trump’s preferred candidate to replace Kelly bowed out.
Trump said Thursday that he was weighing five possibilities. Among the others he considered: his 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Trump senior aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had also been the subject of speculation, signaled his lack of interest. A person familiar with the matter said Kushner believed that he could serve the president best in his current role. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. The names of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and even White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had also been floated.
The president’s hunt for a new chief reverted to square one last weekend when Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, took himself out of the running and decided that he would instead leave the White House. The announcement surprised even senior staffers who believed that Ayers’ ascension was a done deal.
Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, served for six months before leaving in July 2017.


US lawmakers reach deal on massive defense bill

Updated 8 min 26 sec ago

US lawmakers reach deal on massive defense bill

  • The US House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act
  • The bill says Trump should implement sanctions on Turkey over the S-400 purchase, something lawmakers have been demanding

WASHINGTON: US lawmakers announced an agreement on Monday on a $738-billion bill setting policy for the Department of Defense, including new measures for competing with Russia and China, family leave for federal workers and the creation of President Donald Trump’s long-desired Space Force.
It also calls for sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian missile defense system, and a tough response to North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
The US House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, after months of negotiations. It is expected to pass before Congress leaves Washington later this month for the year-end holiday break.
The legislation includes $658.4 billion for the Department of Defense and Department of Energy national security programs, $71.5 billion to pay for ongoing foreign wars, known as “Overseas Contingency Operations” funding, and $5.3 billion in emergency funding for repairs of damage from extreme weather and natural disasters.
There were concerns earlier this year that the NDAA might fail for the first time in 58 years over steep divides between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate over Trump’s policies.
Because it is one of the few pieces of major legislation Congress passes every year, the NDAA becomes a vehicle for a range of policy measures as well as setting everything from military pay levels to which ships or aircraft will be modernized, purchased or discontinued.
It includes a 3.1 percent pay hike for the troops, the largest in a decade and, for the first time, 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers, something Democrats strongly sought.
Among other things, the proposed fiscal 2020 NDAA imposes sanctions related to Russia’s Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines and bars military-to-military cooperation with Russia.
Russia is building the pipelines to bolster supply to Europe while bypassing Ukraine, and members of Congress have been pushing the Trump administration to do more to stop the projects as they near completion.
The NDAA also prohibits the transfer of F-35 stealth fighter jets, which Lockheed Martin Corp. is developing, to Turkey. It expresses a Sense of Congress that Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, which Washington says it not compatible with NATO defenses and threatens the F-35, constitutes a significant transaction under US sanctions law.
The bill says Trump should implement sanctions on Turkey over the S-400 purchase, something lawmakers have been demanding.
The NDAA also reauthorizes $300 million of funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, to include lethal defensive items as well as new authorities for coastal defense cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles.
Military aid to Ukraine has been at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Trump, after his administration held up security assistance for Kiev last summer even as the country dealt with challenges from Russia.
Fulfilling one of Trump’s most high-profile requests, the bill establishes the US Space Force as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the Air Force.
The legislation also contains a series of provisions intended to address potential threats from China, including requiring reports on China’s overseas investments and its military relations with Russia.
It bars the use of federal funds to buy rail cars and buses from China, and it says Congress “unequivocally supports” residents of Hong Kong as they defend their rights and seek to preserve their autonomy with China. It also supports improving Taiwan’s defense capabilities.
The NDAA calls for a sweeping approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, as well as the threat it poses to US forces on the Korean peninsula and allies in the region.
It puts mandatory sanctions on North Korean imports and exports of coal and other minerals and textiles, as well as some petroleum products and crude oil, and it puts additional sanctions on banks that deal with North Korea.
The bill also bars the Pentagon from reducing the number of troops deployed to South Korea below 28,500 unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that it is in the US national security interest to do so.