At a White House press briefing yesterday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow spoke briefly about the congressional effort to pass an economic rescue package, noting in passing that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was coordinating "with the chief of staff, Mark Meadows."
At first blush, that may not have seemed especially notable. It was nearly three weeks ago when Donald Trump announced that Meadows, a far-right North Carolina congressman, was poised to take over as the president's fourth White House chief of staff. As the administration tries to address the coronavirus crisis, it stands to reason that Meadows would be helping lead the team.
The trouble is, the Republican hasn't literally joined the team, at least not yet. Roll Call reported yesterday:
Rep. Mark Meadows is not yet President Donald Trump's chief of staff. Really. He's not. The North Carolina Republican sure looked like the White House chief of staff as he made the rounds with top Trump administration officials Tuesday. But Meadows insists that is not the case, at least not yet.
Asked how he was handling his competing responsibilities, Meadows told Roll Call, "Well, I'm still a member of Congress."
An aide to the congressman told Politico this week that Meadows, though working with Team Trump, is still transitioning to his new role, he isn't yet on the White House's payroll, and the current plan is for him to resign his congressional seat before the end of the month.
He cannot legally serve in both the executive branch and the legislative branch at the same time. It's prohibited by Article I, Section 6, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
So while we wait for Meadows to officially take the reins in the West Wing, is it safe to assume the current White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is still helping out? Nope. The New York Times reported a few days ago, "Mick Mulvaney, the outgoing acting White House chief of staff, entered self-quarantine in his home state of South Carolina after his niece, with whom he shares an apartment in Washington, fell ill and was awaiting test results."
It's possible, of course, that Mulvaney is trying to help out from a home office, but it appears that the White House, for all intents and purposes, doesn't actually have a chief of staff right now.
It's no secret that Mulvaney's influence had waned significantly in recent months, and Politico reported in December that Team Trump was simply waiting for the impeachment process to end before replacing him. Evidently, the White House didn't want to be without a chief of staff during a political crisis.
Three months later, the White House nevertheless finds itself without a formal chief of staff, at least for now, during a public-health and economic crisis.