Nick Ayres respectfully turns down Chief of Staff job

Mr Ayers, who is Mr Pence's chief of staff, said on Sunday he'll depart the White House at the end of the year.

Pence's deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, is expected to assume Ayers' role for the vice president.

A source telling Reuters that candidates under consideration include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Republican Representative Mark Meadows, a staunch ally of the president on issues such as immigration.

Meadows said that he's yet to speak with President Trump about the position since Ayers announced he'd be stepping down.

The White House is simultaneously gearing up for Trump's re-election campaign.

The US president announced on Saturday that John Kelly would be vacating the post at the end of the year, but he has yet to find a replacement to run the White House.

With Ayers out of the running, Trump was considering four candidates for the post, including Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, according to a person familiar with the president's thinking.

The new chief of staff tamped down the infighting that broke out nearly from the day Trump took office.

Just last month, Meadows was rebuked by the House Ethics Committee, which said he had failed "to take prompt and decisive action to deal with the alleged sexual harassment" by a former chief of staff.

Trump's administration has set records for staff turnover, and the president has often struggled to attract experienced political professionals, a challenge that has grown more hard with the upcoming threat of costly Democratic oversight investigations and an uncertain political environment.

Congressman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is now representing the people of North Carolina's 11th district, but his name has jumped toward the top of Trump's likely choices.

Mark Meadows, the leader of the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, were reported to head the list after Trump's first choice dropped out. But a senior administration official, who spoke privately and was not authorized to discuss the talks, said there was reluctance to move Lighthizer into the role because he is integral to negotiations with China over trade.

One source said Ayers got the benefit of being seen as the next chief of staff "without any of the headaches". Meadows is a key White House ally in Congress. Whitaker is supervising Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Kelly, who reportedly called Trump an "idiot" in private and described the White House as "a miserable place to work", is believed to have floated the idea of resigning. The father of young children, Ayers had agreed to serve in an interim capacity though the spring, but Trump wanted a two-year commitment. But tension between the two men and between Kelly and other top officials had grown in recent months.

There was also a significant resistance inside the West Wing to Ayers becoming chief of staff, two sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

  • Jon Douglas