Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, top Congressional Republican Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who’s led the “Freedom Caucus” and long shilled publicly for Trump, will be resigning from Congress this Monday afternoon in order to assume the role of Trump’s chief of staff at the White House. The staffing shake-up, which replaces Mick Mulvaney with the ardently Trump defending Meadows, comes amidst the administration’s struggles to respond effectively to the Coronavirus outbreak. Medical supply shortages have rocked locales across the country, and Trump has passed his own time via winding himself up with conspiracy theories about local authorities and medical personnel, who he suggested over the weekend might be hoarding medical supplies — a claim there is zero evidence for.
Meadows seems unlikely to try and rein in Trump’s behavior. His first day as White House chief of staff will be on Tuesday, CNN reports. The outlet adds:
‘After being one of the first Republican lawmakers to campaign with Trump ahead of the 2016 election, while others were initially keeping their distance, Meadows has become one of Trump’s closest advisers… While Meadows was still occupying his congressional seat after announcing his departure, he had been speaking with the President several times a day on the phone and advising him on a wide variety of matters, according to a person familiar with the matter.’
Lately, it’s hard to imagine that the consultations didn’t involve the government’s Coronavirus response.
Recently, among other developments, Congress passed a huge Coronavirus relief funding package that provided for direct checks to large swaths of Americans, financial support for hard-hit businesses, and more. That plan garnered the support of the majority of Republicans in Congress and the president’s eventual signature — although there’s already talk of another potential relief package on the horizon, if it’s needed.
This issue is one of many that Meadows, who’s served five terms in Congress, will have to deal with in the White House. According to CNN, his team in the Trump administration will include his current Congressional chief of staff, “a couple of aides already working in the Trump administration,” and former Rep. John Fleming, who he’s bringing on as a senior aide.
Meadows is not the only North Carolina Republican to abandon their seat ahead of the elections later this year. At least two others are also ending their Congressional tenures in the wake of a court-ordered redistricting that left them with heavily Democratic-leaning districts. The previous statewide map had been drawn to keep in-district Democratic majorities as few and far between as possible. Including those two North Carolina seats, the Cook Political Report currently rates a full eight currently GOP-held seats as either toss-ups, leaning Democratic, or likely Democratic victories.
The Coronavirus outbreak seems likely to weigh on the next round of elections. Last weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pointed out that Trump’s behavior including weeks of dismissing the Coronavirus’s significance is “deadly” — which, of course, Trump and his allies promptly freaked out over, even as the confirmed Coronavirus case count continues to rise in the U.S.