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Trump's potential next chief of staff pick leaving White House

Shortly after Ayers said he would not take on the role, Trump jumped online to tweet: "I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff."

US President Donald Trump speaks during a post-election press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on 7 November 2018. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON – The White House official widely touted as Donald Trump's favourite to succeed his outgoing chief of staff John Kelly is instead leaving the administration at year's end, he tweeted Sunday.

Nick Ayers, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, tweeted that "I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #MAGA team to advance the cause," referring to Trump's campaign.

"Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honour to serve our Nation at The White House."

Trump announced Saturday that Kelly, 68, would leave the administration - the latest key personnel move at a time of mounting pressure from the Russia election-meddling probe that comes amid increased focus on preparing for the 2020 elections.

Shortly after Ayers said he would not take on the role, Trump jumped online to tweet: "I am in the process of interviewing some really great people for the position of White House Chief of Staff."

"Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers, a spectacular person who will always be with our #MAGA agenda," he continued, adding that "I will be making a decision soon!"

Ayers reportedly would not commit to signing on through 2020 to the president's irritation.

And according to sources cited by The Washington Post, the youthful but politically savvy senior staffer was "skeptical" of taking the position because of the rocky tenures of Kelly and his predecessor Reince Priebus.

When Kelly was picked in July 2017 to replace Priebus, he inherited a White House plagued by political intrigue and internal disorder, and under a cloud because of the allegations of collusion with Russia.

Other potentials on Trump's shortlist include Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, a leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, according to the Post.

The impending departure leaves Trump reliant on a reduced group of key advisers even as he prepares to deal in the new year with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

The opposition party will have the power to launch investigations, issue subpoenas, and generally, make his life more difficult.

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