President Trump fired off a late-night Twitter message Tuesday, slamming as “Fake News!” a story that said top aides Kellyanne Conway and Steve Mnuchin were under consideration to replace acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
“Wrong, never even discussed this with Kellyane Conway or Steve Mnuchin,” the president wrote. “Just more Fake News!”
The president was referring to a story posted earlier in the day by Bloomberg that said Trump “for weeks” has been “privately testing” the idea of dismissing Mulvaney – and that counselor Conway and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin were both seen as possible replacements.
“You have such great ideas, why don’t you be my chief?” Trump supposedly said to Mnuchin during a gathering of White House staffers about a month ago, according to the report.
Other sources told Bloomberg the president was seeking opinions from top advisers on whether Conway could handle the job.
Mulvaney has come under fire recently for his remarks at a news conference at which he tried to explain the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine.
Mulvaney seemed to contradict President Trump’s claim that there was no “quid pro quo” during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, by telling reporters at the White House Thursday that the release of military aid to Ukraine was tied to the administration’s demands that Kiev investigate purported corruption by the Democrats during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
When questioned by reporters about the administration’s decision to withhold $400 million in aid from Ukraine, Mulvaney said Trump told him at the time: "This is a corrupt place. Everyone knows this is a corrupt place. ... Plus, I'm not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either.”
Mulvaney added: “Did [Trump] also mention to me, in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money. ... They look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.”
Both Conway and Mnuchin have been staunch defenders of the president.
Last month Conway appeared on Fox News’ “The Story” and took aim at the still-unidentified “whistleblower” who raised concerns about trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president.
"The whistleblower is someone who does not have firsthand knowledge of what happened," Conway said at the time, calling the individual "more blowhard than whistleblower."
During an August appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Mnuchin described the president as “determined as ever” in working out a trade agreement with China.
“Free, fair and reciprocal trade with China is a major goal of the president,” Mnuchin said, “and … he will do whatever he needs to in order to achieve this. That includes planned sanctions, and a willingness to deal with any Chinese retaliation accordingly.”
Mulvaney, 52, became acting White House chief of staff in January, replacing retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly. The former congressman from South Carolina also remains director of the Office of Management and Budget, the office he assumed in February 2017.
Fox News’ Joshua Nelson, Charles Creitz and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.