Mark Meadows has officially been President Trump’s fourth White House chief of staff for less than three weeks.
In that time, he has shaken up the communications office, angering supporters of the press secretary he chose to replace. He has tried to put in place other speedy changes, hoping to succeed where his three predecessors failed. He has hunted aggressively for leaks.
But administration officials say he has been overwhelmed at times by a permanent culture at the White House that revolves around the president’s moods, his desire to present a veneer of strength and his need for a sense of control. It is why, no matter who serves as chief of staff, the lack of formal processes and the constant infighting are unavoidable facts of life for those working for Mr. Trump.
In the case of Mr. Meadows, it has not helped him with his White House colleagues that the former North Carolina congressman, who has a reputation for showing his emotions, cried while meeting with members of the White House staff on at least two occasions. One instance was in the presence of a young West Wing aide; another time was with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
On both occasions, Mr. Meadows was discussing staffing changes, according to the people with knowledge of the events. A White House spokesman declined to comment on either meeting. A person close to Mr. Kushner said he denied that any such episode involving him ever took place.
Mr. Trump is said to have faith in Mr. Meadows and is sometimes responsive to his suggestions. Unlike the president’s history with his three previous chiefs of staff, the two had a personal relationship before Mr. Meadows resigned from Congress to take the job in the White House. But administration officials said that Mr. Trump sees emotion as a sign of weakness.
Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said, “The White House is fully focused on supporting the president’s mission of defeating the coronavirus, saving American lives, and getting the country back to work — and Mark Meadows has already proven to be a tremendous asset in that effort.”
This article is based on interviews with seven administration officials and others familiar with the events.
While in Congress, Mr. Meadows’s penchant for displaying emotion and showing a sense of his humanity was part of his appeal to some of his colleagues. As chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, composed of the most conservative members of Congress, he was often at war with Democrats and Republicans like John A. Boehner, the former Republican speaker of the House, whom the caucus deemed too moderate.
But he was also known for establishing constructive relationships with people with whom he clashed ideologically.
“Mark Meadows has a live intellect and emotional life,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, who had a good relationship with Mr. Meadows when he served as a congressman. “Again, I consider many of his ideological commitments just indigestible, but we try to find the humanity in our colleagues and he is someone with a mind and a heart, that’s just undeniable.”
But neither quality is necessarily an asset in the Trump White House, where the president likes to project strength at all moments.
A former businessman and real estate developer, Mr. Meadows bonded with Mr. Trump early in the administration and helped push his agenda increasingly to the right. When Mr. Meadows announced that he would step down from Congress, it immediately prompted speculation that he would join the White House.
He was brought in by Mr. Trump as part of a staff shake-up just as the administration was overwhelmed by the fast spread of the coronavirus in the United States and struggling with equipment and testing shortages.
In the middle of the crisis, Mr. Meadows is trying to reorganize the White House staff. People close to him insisted Mr. Meadows’s nature was not to fire people willy-nilly, but they said that was what he was doing nevertheless.
He is also talking about other changes, two people familiar with the planning said, such as reorganizing the speech-writing team — currently a stand-alone office led by Stephen Miller — under the umbrella of the communications department. That discussion has met with some resistance, although one person with knowledge of the changes under consideration said the idea was to synthesize different departments that do not always work in tandem.
At the same time, his grip on the White House is hardly tight. Mr. Meadows was caught off guard when the press office on Tuesday night blasted out a lengthy list of people who had been selected to be part of one of the groups advising Mr. Trump on reopening the country, according to two people briefed on the matter. That had happened at the direction of Mr. Kushner, who has played a leading role in the White House’s response to the virus, according to the people with knowledge of what took place.
The list turned into something of a debacle on Wednesday, with one corporate executive after another telling reporters they had learned they were on it when their names were announced. Some said they had never agreed to be a part of the effort.
Even Mr. Meadows’s allies have described him as reeling from the reality that working for the president is different from being Mr. Trump’s phone confidant.
But by all accounts, Mr. Meadows does have several fans in the White House, some of whom had seen the tenure of his predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman from South Carolina who was also a member of the Freedom Caucus, as dysfunctional and irreparably damaged in Mr. Trump’s eyes during the impeachment inquiry.
During West Wing meetings, Mr. Meadows has been more willing to assert himself and convey a sense of command than Mr. Mulvaney had been over the past several months, three administration officials said. And they said that even though his personal style was not to come in and make wholesale changes, he was doing what the president wanted.
But the way he handled one of the first changes he made in his new job — tapping Kayleigh McEnany to replace Stephanie Grisham as press secretary — angered some allies of Ms. Grisham who remained. They said that Mr. Meadows let staff members learn about the changes from news reports without explaining how he would bring in his own allies to serve in specific roles.
Ms. Grisham is now the chief of staff to Melania Trump, the first lady.
Former colleagues in Congress do not sound optimistic about Mr. Meadows’s chances for success in his new role.
“So far, Mark has been able to get along with people even when he strongly disagrees with them,” Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said of Mr. Meadows’s lengthy career. He declined to elaborate on how that might work now.
“I can see why the president and his staff would be very drawn to Mark Meadows,” Mr. Raskin said. “My worry for Mark is that the president is drawn to him as a person of quality, but now that he has him, he may just chew him up and spit him out the way he has done with so many people he has brought in to work for him.”
Updated April 11, 2020
This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.
The Times Neediest Cases Fund has started a special campaign to help those who have been affected, which accepts donations here. Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities. More than 30,000 coronavirus-related GoFundMe fund-raisers have started in the past few weeks. (The sheer number of fund-raisers means more of them are likely to fail to meet their goal, though.)
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.
No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.
Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.
If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.
Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.
Watching your balance go up and down can be scary. You may be wondering if you should decrease your contributions — don’t! If your employer matches any part of your contributions, make sure you’re at least saving as much as you can to get that “free money.”