Exclusive: Top Pence aides quietly depart in new year
Vice President Mike Pence’s chief lawyer and domestic policy director are leaving his office at the beginning of the new year, according to four sources familiar with the staff turnover.
The moves come amid high tensions and staff turnover in the Trump administration thanks to the ongoing Russia probe and a new tell-all book about West Wing happenings.
“These moves have been in the works for weeks,” the vice president’s communications director confirmed to CNN.
CNN has learned that longtime senior staffers Mark Paoletta and Daris Meeks are leaving Pence’s office. The announcement was made by chief of staff Nick Ayers in a staff meeting at the beginning of the week.
Paoletta and Meeks’ departures follow two other top Pence aides who have left the Office of the Vice President: chief of staff Josh Pitcock and press secretary Marc Lotter. The vice president’s staff is considerably smaller than the West Wing, making the departures a more notable shift at the beginning of the new year.
Paoletta serves as Pence’s chief counsel, the top lawyer in his office. In his role, he advised on all legal matters. Paoletta was “very involved” in helping with the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination, according to one source familiar with his position.
Not only did Paoletta work on the Trump transition, but he also served as an outside counsel for Pence when he was a congressman. Paoletta is a high-profile lawyer in Washington who has served inside the government and a partner at the law firm DLA Piper. He will remain in the administration as the counsel for the Office of Management and Budget, according to one person familiar with the matter.
Meeks serves as Pence’s director of domestic policy, another top position. He advised Pence on major issues such as tax reform and health care reform this last year. Meeks is expected to go back into the private sector, according to two people with knowledge of his plans.
One source added that Meeks helped on the Trump-Pence campaign in the summer of 2016, and also on the Trump transition. Meeks’ departure is also notable because he is a longtime Pence aide. He served as a congressional aide when Pence was as an Indiana congressman.
Matt Morgan, who serves on the vice president’s staff as a deputy counsel, will be assuming the chief counsel role, according to two sources with knowledge. Both Paoletta and Morgan advised the vice president on the now-defunct voter fraud commission, which Pence chaired.
“Daris Meeks and Mark Paoletta served the vice president’s office with honor and distinction,” said Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary. “Both were instrumental in setting up the vice president’s operation for success in its first year. … The vice president is grateful for their service.”