Nick Ayers, President Trump’s top choice to replace John F. Kelly as chief of staff, has declined to take the job, according to three people familiar with the talks.
Mr. Ayers, 36, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to leave the administration in the coming weeks as his family returns to Georgia, according to people familiar with his plans.
That leaves it unclear who will take the top West Wing job as Mr. Trump enters the 2020 campaign confronting growing danger from the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference and from Democrats who have vowed tougher oversight after they take control of the House next month.
Mr. Ayers had told the president that he would do the job on an interim basis, through the spring. But Mr. Trump wants a permanent chief of staff as he heads into the fight of his political life.
Others seen as possible choices for chief of staff include the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin; Mr. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney; and the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer.