Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and the top choice to move into the same role for the president, declined the offer and will leave the White House in the next few weeks, according to several media reports.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were the first to report that Ayers declined President Donald Trump’s pitch, although he offered to serve in a temporary basis for several months. The president rejected that deal, saying he wanted a permanent chief of staff as he enters the fray going into the 2020 election season.
Ayers thanked both Trump and Pence in a tweet Sunday, saying he would continue to work with the president “to advance the cause.”
It’s unclear who the new front-runner is to take over the role after Trump told reporters Saturday that John Kelly would leave the administration by the end of the year.
“He’s a great guy,” the president said of Kelly. “I appreciate his service very much.”
Ayers, a wealthy 36-year-old political consultant from Georgia, enjoyed face time with Trump in his role as chief of staff to Pence.
In Ayers, Trump had found a loyalist he hoped would replace the outgoing Kelly, who has reportedly referred to the president several times as an “idiot.” Ayers raised eyebrows last year when he told a group of Republican donors that the party should boot any GOP lawmaker who opposes Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda.
“Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him?” Ayers said of Trump, according to Politico.
For more than a year, he has joined Pence at regular lunches with Trump, during which he gained the president’s approval and trust, CNN reported last month.
Yet Ayers was a divisive figure among White House staffers, as HuffPost previously reported. He’s known as a constant self-promoter, attempting to embody the perfect Southern gentleman, an image crafted with politesse, expensive suits and a drawl.
“If you talk slow, people think you think slow,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told HuffPost earlier this year. “[Ayers] thinks four times as fast as he talks.”
In a November profile describing his complex web of political ties, The New York Times called him “an ambitious ‘House of Cards’ character who wandered onto the set of the Trump reality show.”
Ayers’ career took off quickly. He reported a net worth of between $12 million and nearly $55 million after less than seven years of work as a political consultant and a partner in a media buying company.
He prompted ethics concerns, however, for taking the top post under Pence in June 2017 without first selling his media buying company, C5 Creative Consulting, even though his influence in the vice president’s office could impact political advertising decisions. He eventually sold his stake by May of this year.
He has also reportedly ingratiated himself with Trump’s eldest children, sharing Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.’s enthusiasm for hunting.
The announcement comes shortly after Trump announced two other staff shake-ups, choosing the State Department’s Heather Nauert as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and William Barr as attorney general.