Linda McMahon, the former professional wrestling executive turned government official, is leaving her post as administrator of the Small Business Administration.
McMahon is leaving President Donald Trump’s administration to join his outside political group, America First, two sources familiar with the move confirmed to CNN.
The President deemed McMahon a “superstar” in a send-off from his Mar-a-Lago club on Friday. He said her new role would help him win re-election after she leaves her post.
“The fact is that I’ve known her for a long time. I knew she was good but I didn’t know she was that good. She has been one of our all-time favorites,” he said from Mar-a-Lago, where he was seated on a sofa alongside his outgoing official.
“She’ll be leaving. She’s going to go help us with a very, very important year and a half we have coming up,” he said. “The re-election as they call it.”
He said he would announce a replacement soon who fits in “very beautifully.”
One of the highest-ranking women in government – and one of the richest – McMahon had served largely under the radar in her more than two years at the agency. Unlike some of her Cabinet counterparts, she has not drawn the ire of Democrats in Congress or of ethics experts.
Instead, she’s quietly led the unassuming agency in its lending programs and disaster relief efforts, working to increase loans to women-run businesses and traveling with the President when he visited hurricane-struck areas.
“POTUS loves her,” one source familiar with the matter said.
The President and his political allies have been looking for someone close to the President and with credibility among the GOP donor class to go take a senior role at America First. She will primarily help with fundraising, the sources said.
“She’s the one that ties it all together,” a second source familiar with the move said.
Nick Ayers, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was at one point talked about to head up the group, as was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the second source said.
It is not clear yet what exactly McMahon’s title will be at the organization.
A longtime friend of the President’s, McMahon and Trump first encountered each other in the 1980s, when the President was developing casinos in Atlantic City and McMahon was launching what would become World Wrestling Entertainment, a $1 billion enterprise she ran with her husband Vince.
Trump made a string of appearances on WWE programs over the course of his career as a business executive, perhaps never more memorably than when he body-slammed Vince McMahon before shaving his head.
The couple were major donors to Trump, but Linda McMahon did not arrive at her Cabinet position without some political experience. She ran unsuccessfully for US Senate in Connecticut twice.
Over the course of Trump’s campaign, McMahon at moments distanced herself from his more inflammatory language, including what she said were “deplorable” words about women.
But she returned to the fold after he won, and accepted the position at the Small Business Administration.
The agency isn’t well known, which probably helped McMahon keep a low profile in an administration where outshining the President can be treacherous and ethics scandals have been rampant.
She has instead worked to boost the agency’s loans to women-run businesses, and acted as a proponent for the Republican tax cut package as it moved its way through Capitol Hill last year.