On Wednesday, when asked about his search for a chief of staff to replace John Kelly, President Donald Trump said this: "I have at least 10, 12 -- 12 people that want it badly. I'm making a decision. Great people," he said. "I could do it immediately. I'm in no rush. A lot of people want it."
On Thursday, which, in case you have lost your sense of time somehow, is 24 hours later, Trump said he had narrowed his list -- suddenly -- to just five people. "Mostly well-known," he said of the group. "Terrific people."
How? Who? Why? When?
In truth, I have zero answers to any of these questions.
The only thing we KNOW is that, late Wednesday, the White House announced Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina was out of the running. Other than that? The list seems to remain the same: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have also been mentioned but have said they are not interested).
The reason we know so little about this process and it seems so haphazard is because Trump knows little about the process and it is so haphazard. All the reporting in the wake of Mike Pence chief of staff Nick Ayers' decision to turn down that same job with Trump makes clear there was no "plan B" in place. There were even some whispers of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, being considered, including in a Huffington Post report Thursday.
Asked about that possibility, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, "I'm not aware that he's under consideration, but I think as all of us here would recognize, he would be great in any role the President chooses to put him in."
The truth of the matter is that Trump is, as he so often does, making it up as he goes. That seat-of-the-pants style explains the wildly varying number of candidates and Trump's need to repeatedly insist publicly that not only is this all going according to his plan but also there are candidates falling all over themselves to work for him.
There's little evidence that's the case. In fact, many smart Washington Republicans have steered far away from even being mentioned for the chief of staff job -- knowing that the gig is extremely difficult under the best circumstances and impossible with Trump as your boss.
The Point: Trump will find someone to fill the gap left by Kelly. But the idea that Trump is executing against a pre-laid plan is a fallacy.
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