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Mark Meadows officially enters chief of staff job amid national coronavirus crisis

Mark Meadows' resignation from Congress as a North Carolina congressman became official at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, leaving the House of Representatives with a total of 429 members as he turns to his new job as White House chief of staff.

His new gig is one of the toughest in Washington, and it was already by its nature difficult, before factoring in a president who's fond of acting as his own chief of staff and isn't well known for his attention to detail on policy. Add to that a global pandemic that's devastating American lives and jobs and making the chief-of-staff role even more intense. 

Meadows recognized early on the value of building a close relationship with President Trump and steadily became one of his closest confidants and greatest defenders in the halls of the Capitol and on television. Meadows is now the president's fourth chief of staff, replacing Mick Mulvaney, who never officially held the full title, but served as acting chief of staff beginning in December 2018. Meadows, whose official first day is Monday, has already been serving as de facto chief of staff, appearing at meetings and working on coronavirus relief negotiations on Capitol Hill. 

He has proven willing to defend the president and push his agenda forward on Capitol Hill, particularly during the impeachment saga that has been all but forgotten in the heat of the coronavirus crisis. 

A small business owner for roughly three decades before joining Congress in 2013, Meadows has a personality and approach that differs from his predecessors. On Capitol Hill, he became known as one of the most press-friendly Republican members. And he can be expected to be more public-facing than those who came before him in the job. But like Mulvaney, Meadows was an original member of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of Republican members who pushed for lower spending and more conservative policies, regularly causing headaches for House Republican leadership. 

Coronavirus has already affected Meadows personally. He self-quarantined after learning he might have come into contact with an infected person at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February. He later tested negative for the virus. 

Enormous challenges lie ahead for Mr. Trump's White House and Meadows, as they navigate dispensing huge quantities of medical supplies to hospitals and will likely negotiate further relief packages with Congress as they try to figure out how best to get the economy back on track. At the same time, they're trying to bring down the mortality rate from COVID-19 and impress upon Americans the urgency of adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

The president is eager to restart the economy, though earlier this week, he had to delay his target date for modifying social distancing guidelines for the U.S. from Easter, which is April 12, to April 30. The new date came after his public health experts showed him models projecting that as many as 2 million Americans could perish if the country returns to normal, encouraging the president to extend the guidelines on social distancing and other measures through the end of April. Mr. Trump is already looking to a "phase four" coronavirus bill to spend on transportation infrastructure while interest rates are low. 

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