RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a top conservative ally of President Donald Trump, said Thursday he won't seek reelection next year. He is expected to join the Trump administration in a yet-to-be-finalized role.
Now in his seventh year in the House, Meadows has been a leader of hard-right conservatives who repeatedly defied and bedeviled two GOP House speakers. His disruptive tactics seemed to make him a kindred spirit with Trump, and the two men meet and confer often.
Meadows' name has been floated inside the White House at times as a possible replacement for Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. But Meadows is instead currently expected to join the White House in a yet-to-be-finalized senior adviser or strategist role, according to two people familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
While Meadows had openly expressed his desire to serve as Trump’s chief of staff in the past, he is not expected to replace anyone currently working at the White House.
And one of those people said they expected the role to be temporary, with Meadows eventually returning to the private sector.
Meadows told reporters Thursday that joining Trump's White House staff or presidential campaign “are certainly options," but remained vague.
The 60-year-old lawmaker declined to rule out taking a new post and leaving Congress before his two-year term expires.
“I plan to continue to help the president and the administration, and how we do that and in what capacity has yet to be defined," he told reporters.
He said he might seek elective office in the future. But he said he would not run for the Senate in 2020, when GOP Sen. Thom Tillis is up for reelection, or in 2022, when his North Carolina colleague, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, has said he will retire.
Meadows' announcement comes just a day after the House voted to impeach Trump on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress.
Meadows became the 25th Republican to say they won't seek reelection next year, plus another four who have already resigned or will leave Congress shortly. While Meadows' seat is viewed as safely Republican, some of the districts being vacated are not, further complicating the GOP's unlikely prospects of winning the House majority in next November's elections.
In a written statement, Meadows said he struggled with the decision and came to it after discussion with his family.
“My work with President Trump and his administration is only beginning. This President has accomplished incredible results for the country in just three years, and I’m fully committed to staying in the fight with him and his team to build on those successes and deliver on his promises for the years to come," Meadows said in the statement. “I’ve always said Congress is a temporary job, but the fight to return Washington, D.C. to its rightful owner, We The People, has only just begun."
In 2015, Meadows stunned his Republican colleagues by filing a motion to oust House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, which eventually led to Boehner's resignation. The House Freedom Caucus, which he led, also sometimes made life difficult for Boehner's successor, former Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
The Freedom Caucus is a block of around three dozen conservative lawmakers. Their numbers and unity sometimes gave them enough clout to scuttle GOP bills not to their liking or to extract concessions from party leaders.
Meadows also drew attention for his friendship with progressive Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who died earlier this year.
"There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings," Meadows tweeted after his death.
Meadows moved to the North Carolina mountains in the 1980s from Florida and opened a restaurant, then obtained a real-estate license to sell houses. He eventually became a real-estate developer and made millions of dollars before deciding to run in 2012 to replace a Democratic congressman who decided not to seek reelection.
He earned that year's Republican nomination after a bruising eight-way primary and won the general election before making a name for himself as a staunch conservative who opposed the policies of President Barack Obama.
Two other Republican incumbents in North Carolina recently announced they would not run again for Congress in 2020 after their districts shifted to the left in redistricting this year. George Holding and Mark Walker's districts picked up many new Democratic voters when the legislature redrew all 13 U.S. House districts after judges ruled it was likely the previous map was tainted with GOP partisan bias.
The reconfiguration of Meadows' district still appeared favorable to him even though the new map put all of heavily Democratic Asheville into his territory.
Candidate filing ends Friday in North Carolina. Four Democrats and one Green Party candidate had filed for Meadows' seat as of Wednesday. The primary is March 3.
Fram contributed from Washington. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin in Washington and Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report.