Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director who President Donald Trump tweeted Friday would serve as acting chief of staff after John Kelly departs in January, has been a loyal Trump supporter—but he didn’t always like him so much.
During a debate with his then-congressional challenger, Democrat Fran Person, on Nov. 2 of 2016, less than a week before Trump was elected president, then-congressman Mulvaney was blunt with those gathered at York Middle School in York, South Carolina.
After decrying the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as a liberal who would take the country in the wrong direction, Mulvaney said he was supporting Trump, essentially by default.
“Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump, but I’m doing so despite the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being,” he said, according to a report in The State newspaper.
Mulvaney won his race by more than 20 points, with Trump carrying the same area by 19 points.
Mulvaney is far from the first person in the administration to openly criticize Trump before signing on for a job in his administration, but he is certainly one of the most high-ranking.
During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Trump opponent Rick Perry called the future president’s campaign a “cancer on conservatism.” Perry now serves as President Trump’s Secretary of Energy. Before Kellyanne Conway became Trump’s 2016 campaign manager during the homestretch of the race, Conway had publicly criticized candidate Trump for refusing to release his tax returns and for his “vulgar” rhetoric. Conway currently serves as one of Trump’s most ardent defenders and as his White House counselor.
Even if Mulvaney had never uttered a critical word about Trump, the chances he would last long in a chief of staff post would have likely been slim regardless. Two knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast on Friday that Mulvaney has indicated in recent weeks that he definitely would not want the chief of staff position beyond a temporary, interim assignment.
“Why would he? He’s a sane man,” one administration source said, bluntly, referencing the routine humiliation, reputational damage, and backstabbing that Trump’s current and past chiefs of staff had famously experienced.