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Trump chief of staff vows to continue purge of disloyal staff: 'it's only fair'

Mick Mulvaney sends warning to 'deep state,' saying clearing out non-Trump supporters would be second-term priority

John T. Bennett
Friday 28 February 2020 15:41 GMT
Coronavirus: What we know so far

Donald Trump asks his top aides whether he is likely to get impeached during a possible second term, said Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who accused the media of trying to use Coronavirus to "bring down" his boss.

"The president asks me, 'Do you think I'll be impeached again?'" Mr Mulvaney said on Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington after telling attendees Republicans need to pick up seats in Congress.

"And I say, 'I don't know, you tell me who's in charge of the House after the 2020 elections,'" he tells his boss, who is always on the lookout for foes and feels his presidency is constantly at risk.

A little over a week after the president sacked Joseph Maguire, a career Navy officer, as acting director of national intelligence and replaced him with a loyalist former communications professional who also sacked the deputy DNI -- a career intelligence officer -- Mr Mulvaney sent another warning to what he dubbed the "deep state."

"You want bureaucrats who work just as hard for Donald Trump as they did for Barack Obama," Mr Mulvaney said. "That's only fair. ... And that does not happen."

His chilling-but-vague answer is sure to add gasoline to worries that Mr Trump will purge the federal government of as many employees he and his team deem disloyal -- and replace them with pro-Trump individuals who lack expertise in those fields, but are willing to do the White House's bidding.

The president did not sleep on the 19-hour flight back from India, where he was feted during a state visit on Monday and Tuesday.

"I know that because he was emailing and texting and taking calls," said Mr Mulvaney.

The president held a news conference that evening, with his acting chief of staff revealing Mr Trump did not sleep a wink all day Wednesday after arriving back at the White House around 7 a.m. and opting to hold the press conference 12 hours later.

During his rare appearance in the James Brady Briefing Room, the president contradicted his top health officials about the threat posed by the virus and blamed an ongoing global stock market slowdown on the Democratic presidential candidates and their debates, claiming Wall Street and other indexes are spooked when they're all on the same stage.

He was roundly criticised for yet another uneven, grievance-filled performance at a time when previous presidents would have tried to portray calm and a common message from the federal government.

"The man just never sleeps," Mr Mulvaney said of his boss.

Mr Mulvaney further pulled back the curtain on life working for Mr Trump, who sleeps little and has a notable amount of energy for a septuagenarian. He said the president often begins calling him at 6 a.m., "and the calls go until about midnight."

But, he quipped, Trump is "very courteous" because he rarely calls in the middle of the night.

Mr Mulvaney is still Mr Trump's budget director and is a former wonkish conservative House member from South Carolina.

He called a new round of tax cuts and making ones included in a 2017 GOP-crafted law permanent the top priorities for a possible second Trump term.

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