The White House budget director is usually less flashy than managerial, concerned more with numbers than narrative. Not so with Mick Mulvaney, who has forged for himself dual roles as a policymaker and a prolific media presence.
Newly released records show that Mulvaney conducted 102 media interviews, conference calls, and press briefings during his first seven months as the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. He sat down with outlets ranging from foreign media to conservative talk radio to network Sunday shows to some of the nation’s most prominent newspapers, one of which he agreed to give bi-weekly updates on goings-on in the administration.
One day in April, after the White House announced an administration-wide federal hiring freeze, Mulvaney spoke at the White House press briefing and sat down for interviews with Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, radio hosts Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Mike Gallagher, and squeezed in a discussion with columnist Michael Wolff for his book on the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.
Records of those meetings and interviews were among White House visitor data released on Tuesday by ProPublica. They reveal Mulvaney to be a prominent White House voice not just with Congress, industry, think tanks, and administration colleagues, but also with a political press that has scrutinized White House-backed tax and budget measures.
Those who have worked with Mulvaney—who studied international economics, commerce, and finance at Georgetown University—say he is a natural communicator who can distill complex financial and budgetary issues into easily understandable soundbites.
“Like any good libertarian, he really nerds out on some of this budget stuff,” said one House Republican aide who worked with Mulvaney before his move to the White House. “He’s probably got as good an understanding of those details as anyone in the [White House], so it makes sense to put him front and center.”
The White House apparently agrees. “Director Mulvaney is a valued member of the administration and as the lead of the Office of Management his responsibilities impact a wide variety of issues making him a natural surrogate for the administration,” said press secretary Sarah Sanders in an email.
Mulvaney may be rewarded for his performance in that capacity. He is believed to be in line to lead, on an interim basis, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after director Richard Cordray’s planned resignation.
At OMB, the press has been far from Mulvaney’s only, or even primary, concern. ProPublica’s visitor records list a number of notable names on his schedule, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, casino mogul and Republican National Committee finance chair Steve Wynn, GOP messaging guru Frank Luntz, and former House speaker and informal Trump adviser Newt Gingrich. He’s even met with a representative of the Catholic order Opus Dei.
But for an administration in dire need of effective communicators, Mulvaney has increasingly played a public-facing role. He has delivered some memorable lines from the White House briefing room podium. Asked in May about proposed cuts to Medicaid spending at a press briefing, he quipped, “if you’re watching this at home, in Washington D.C., if you spent $100 last year on something, OK, and we spend $100 this year on that same thing, in Washington people call that a cut. OK? 100 last year, 100 this year, y’all call it a cut.”
Mulvaney participated in nine press briefings from February through August, and a handful of White House conference calls with reporters.
One of his preferred outlets appears to be The Wall Street Journal. Among the dozens of news organizations listed on his calendar in the documents released by ProPublica, the Journal is the only one with which he appears to have set up regular meetings. In July and August, his schedule listed three meetings with the paper, each marked as a “WSJ Bi-Weekly Conversation.”
Mulvaney’s favorite outlet, though, appears to be Fox News. He conducted 17 interviews for the channel and its Fox Business sister network from February through August, and had additional sit-downs with talk radio shows hosted by Fox personalities Ingraham, Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity.
But Mulvaney also made time for Fox’s competitors, making four appearances on CNN, two on MSNBC, four on CNBC, and one on PBS. He’s also appeared on Sunday talk shows hosted by NBC, CBS, and ABC.
Other prominent news outlets to land interviews include the Associated Press; The Washington Post; Politico; Bloomberg; The Economist; the Washington Examiner; talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, and Mike Gallagher; and the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, in Mulvaney’s home state.
Less prominent outlets have also received interviews, including the Trump-friendly Sinclair Broadcasting—former White House aide Boris Epshteyn, now Sinclair’s chief political analyst, interviewed Mulvaney in August—a number of local radio stations, and even Irish national broadcaster RTÉ.
For an OMB director ostensibly steeped in the minutiae of budgetary matters, Mulvaney’s outgoing nature has itself attracted press attention, as National Public Radio’s Marketplace discovered after he appeared on CNBC’s Speakeasy—a show that features conversations over drinks at various bars and restaurants.
As Marketplace noted, “Give Budget Director Mick Mulvaney a beer and he’ll tell you a lot.”