Reince Priebus Becomes Second Shortest Serving White House Chief of Staff in U.S. History

Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus (R) shakes hands with Republi

With President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement via Twitter on Friday that he has named a new White House Chief of Staff, ousted staffer Reince Priebus of Wisconsin becomes one of the shortest serving chiefs in U.S. history.

Priebus’s short time in the position, though, has a different character than the others. Whereas the other two short timers on the Chief of Staff list served at the end of their president’s term, Priebus is the first to be jettisoned so early from the start of a presidential term.

Priebus served as Chief of Staff from the first day of the Trump administration on January 20 until today, July 28. In all Priebus served at the president’s pleasure for six months and eight days until the ax fell. It is quite a short amount of time. Only two other presidential chiefs of staff came as close to so few days in the White House.

George H. W. Bush Chief of Staff James Baker remains the shortest serving chief, having served from August 23, 1992, to Bush’s last day in office on January 20, 1993, or just a few days shy of five months. Still, Baker was more than expected to stay on if Bush had won re-election in 1992.

Priebus, though, served less than the next man on the list, Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s last chief of staff. Duberstein served only a few weeks longer than Priebus, having been appointed on July 1, 1988, and serving until the end of Reagan’s administration on January 20, 1989. Duberstein served six months and 20 days, just about a week shy of seven months.

In 2013 Duberstein remembered how President Reagan asked him to take the position. “He said, ‘Honestly, Nancy and I want you to come home for the last two years of the administration.’ And of course, you say ‘yes!'” Duberstein said.

“It was the best professional decision of my life to be at his right hand when he was dealing with Gorbachev or Margaret Thatcher or Helmut Kohl,” Duberstein admitted. “As Ronald Reagan said, we started out to change our country, and we ended up changing the world.”

But, unlike Priebus and Trump, Ken Duberstein had faithfully served Reagan for some time in other positions until he helped lead the Reagan White House as the great man’s last term wound down.

Previous to his role in the Reagan inner circle, Duberstein served between 1981 and 1983 as both the Assistant and the Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs.

Reagan’s former Chief of Staff later made news in October of 2008 when he turned against the Republican Party by endorsing Barack Obama for president over the party’s nominee of John McCain.

One other figure served less time as chief of staff than all the rest — but with an asterisk. Pete Rouse only served three months for Barack Obama from October 2010 to January of 2011. But the asterisk comes in because Rouse was never officially appointed to the position and served only as an ad interim chief during that period.

The Chief of Staff position has only been in use since 1946, when Harry S. Truman came to office. But the position is a tough one to hold. Only two presidents, Truman and Kennedy, had only one Chief of Staff. Most presidents had two or even three. Ronald Reagan had four, as did Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama had the most at five separate Chiefs of Staff (including Rouse as ad interim).

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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