Potential opening for Liddell as Trump's chief of staff exits

Donald Trump with Chris Liddell at the White House in January 2017. The president has called the New Zealander a "genius."

US president Donald Trump is consulting on successors for his chief of staff, John Kelly, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The retired general's departure is expected to be announced as soon as next week.

New Zealander Chris Liddell could be in the frame as a potential replacement in the influential role.

The ambitious Kiwi, earlier dubbed a "genius" by the president, joined the Trump administration as a strategic adviser, and was named deputy chief of staff for policy in March (there are two deputies to Mr Kelly, one for policy and one for operations).

The same month saw the NBR Rich lister on a short-list of two to be the president's chief economic adviser. In the final event, the role went to economist Larry Kudlow.

Mr Kelly became chief of staff a year ago today. He was charged with bringing order to a White House often riven with faction-fighting and chaotic communications. He was credited with the departure of a number of factious advisers, and for overturning an open-access approach to the Oval Office. However, since April there appears to have been growing tension between the president and the retired general, apparently stemming from media reports that Mr Kelly called the president "an idiot."

If he does bag chief of staff, Mr Liddell could prove a voice of moderation – or at least more conventional centre-right orthodoxy than is often seen in the populist Trump administration, according to New Zealand tech industry insiders who are familiar with his apparently blue-green politics today (though it's notable that in his youth he supported Bob Jones' New Zealand Party (Mr Liddell himself has avoided overtly political comments during his rare interviews since entering the White House).

But although the Kiwi is in the picture, he faces competition.

Quoting unnamed insiders, the Journal says the two frontrunners or the job ar Nick Ayers, who serves as chief of staff to Vice-President Mike Pence, and Mick Mulvaney, who heads the Office of Management and Budget as well as serving as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Matamata to the White House
Born in Matamata, Mount Albert Grammar old boy Mr Liddell has an honours degree in engineering from Auckland University and a masters of philosophy from Oxford. Initially an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston, Mr  Liddell eventually became joint chief executive before he moved to Carter Holt Harvey in the mid-1990s as chief financial officer and then chief executive.

A shift to the US in 2003 as the chief financial officer of International Paper led to Liddell’s big career break when he became Microsoft’s chief financial officer.

Two months after quitting Microsoft in November 2009, Liddell became chief financial officer at an ailing General Motors where he steered the business back to health with a $US23 billion IPO before suddenly leaving within 14 months.

He first gained profile on the US political scene in 2012 as head of Republican candidate Mitt Romney's White House transition team (a role that was ultimately redundant after the Republican lost to Barack Obama)

A stint as Xero chairman was headed off when Mr Liddell was appointed to the Trump White House. He resigned his position and sold his shares in the online accounting company to comply with ethics and conflict-of-interest guidelines – though he was still subject to an investigation into the timing of the sale of his shares in Xero and other companies.

The NBR Rich List values Mr Liddell at $120 million.


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19 Comments & Questions

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Prone to suddenly leaving

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Yes indeed....

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If "an idiot" calls someone a "genius" ...

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Then the genius must also be an idiot

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Or it could be another rat getting on board a sinking ship.

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Any more cheap shots at Liddell anyone?

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CK could have mentioned the company Liddell' ran had a significant role in the leaky buildings' disaster, but refrained.
Trumps recently departed spin-doctor, with the glamorous looks and incredibly low profile is also said to be in the running for the job....based on proven loyalty, something Trump is said to rate the ultimate attribute.

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Why oh why do we keep trying to get Liddell a job as Chief of Staff? I can't think of anything worse for anyone - from both perspectives. Liddell is a batty and Trump is a nightmare.

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I think Leonard Cohen wrote a lyric about trying to change the system from within.

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Draining the swamp by infesting The swamp with bigger and worse crocs ?

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One liners
Little achievement - the bargain bin CHH to Mr Hart etc

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I think his role at CHH could hardly be considered a success.....but he seemed to deliver at Microsoft and GM ... at least as far as business went.

He is incredibly political so not surprised he is having traction in this environment.

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Also notable that he was very global and cross-border in his outlook at Microsoft and GM (barely surprising given their global supply chains and the modern economy etc). It's hard to see that he would buy into Trump's simplistic protectionism. My sense is that he is/he will try to nudge things in the other direction.

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Remind us what he delivered at Microsoft?

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I wish him (Liddell) well. I don't know the guy so can't comment on his qualities as such, but I can tell you that right now the White House is the place to be if you want to change the world for the better. And especially if you want the West to come out best. Right now, democracy has split into so many factions in so many places, including in our own fair pastures, that if we can't control the debt, or the stupid people, or rewrite things back to our advantage (from the Far East) then what's left of us will become slaves to communism before 2030. It's either now or never and I'm not sure how many people realise how serious it is. We are actually being overtaken as a dominant culture by another dominant culture, and if you believe that's okay and that what we've created is bad and old and better off dead, just wait to you see what's coming.
Some of you know it's already here.
Buggar!

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The 1950s and McCarthy called - they want their propaganda back...

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Nothing can be done 'for the better' from within the Trump White House. Only from the outside, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

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It looks like the NZ media has been suckered by fake news again. Kelly has stated he's not leaving.

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I know, right. It's just like how the fake news media got suckered into reporting that Flynn, Priebus, Spicer, Bannon, McMaster, McFarland, Cohn, Powell, Hicks, Tillerson, Cobb and Porter were leaving. When will we learn?

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