Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken defenders in Congress, will not seek reelection in 2020.
Meadows, who assumed office in 2013, told Politico he could retire before his term is over to take on a new unspecified role either in Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign or in his administration.
“For everything there is a season,” Meadows said in a statement to HuffPost. “After prayerful consideration and discussion with family, today I’m announcing that my time serving Western North Carolina in Congress will come to a close at the end of this term.”
Meadows, a member of the House Oversight and Transportation committees, said he always considered Congress to be a “temporary job.” His work with Trump and his administration is “only beginning,” he said in his statement.
Asked to elaborate on his new position serving the president, Meadows’ office told HuffPost that nothing had been set.
“This President has accomplished incredible results for the country in just 3 years,” Meadows, 60, said in his statement, “and I’m fully committed to staying in the fight with him and his team to build on those successes and deliver on his promises for the years to come.”
Meadows co-founded the far-right House Freedom Caucus in 2015. He served as the bloc’s chair from 2017 to 2019.
He has been a staunch opponent of Trump’s impeachment, calling it a “sham partisan process” and claiming the president did nothing wrong by pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Trump frequently promotes Meadows’ anti-impeachment tweets on Twitter and has praised the lawmaker as a “great friend” and “EXCELLENT” chair of the Freedom Caucus.
Meadows was in the running last year as a possible replacement for then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, but Trump ultimately decided he favored keeping him in Congress.
“Congressman Mark Meadows is a great friend to President Trump and is doing an incredible job in Congress,” then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement at the time. “The president told him we need him in Congress, so he can continue the great work he is doing there.”
While running for his first term in Congress in 2012, Meadows flirted with birtherism, a racist and false conspiracy theory pushed by Trump that questioned then-President Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship.
“2012 is the time we’re going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is,” Meadows said at a tea party rally at the time. “We’re going to do it!”
He later distanced himself from those remarks, telling The Washington Post in 2015 that he doesn’t “even remember that quote.” In February, when video of his “Kenya” comments resurfaced, Meadows said he’d “addressed that a dozen times.”
“I can tell you that anyone who knows me knows that there is not a racial bone in my body,” he said.
Meadows represents North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, one of Republicans’ strongest footholds in the South.
At least four Democrats have announced bids for Meadows’ seat: attorney Gina Collias, musician Michael O’Shea, Air Force veteran Steve Woodsmall and Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.
This article has been updated with additional information about Meadows’ tenure in Congress.