President Donald Trump said Saturday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his post at the end of the year.
“A great guy,” Trump said of the retired Marine Corps general as he left the White House for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. “We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place” in the next few days.
The departure of the man White House aides refer to as “General Kelly” is a major victory for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, who are senior White House aides. Both had clashed with Kelly, who drastically scaled back Kushner’s policy portfolio.
Kelly’s coming exit shows, yet again, how individuals with power and influence outside the Trump orbit can enter it even in senior positions but clash with the president’s family and be ousted.
The move is yet another reversal for the president, who had his staff announce earlier this year — after a previous round of Kelly departure rumors — that the retired Marine four-star general would stay in his post through Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
But Trump reportedly grew testy with his staff in the days after the Republicans’ loss of the House and seats at the state level in the midterm elections. The president boss showed his frustrations on Twitter, using a 6-hour flight to Paris No. 9 to go on an extended rant about his domestic political opponents even after saying that morning that he was focused on “the world.”
Trump has made no secret of his desire to make staff and Cabinet changes, describing in plain words his expectation that just about everyone will leave his administration at some point.
Trump in recent months has signaled that he would carry out something of a purge of his Cabinet and his West Wing senior staff after the midterm elections. That began Nov. 7, when he announced that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was out.
There long had been reports of tensions between Trump and Kelly — typically denied by one or both within a few days. That did not happen this time, however.
Kelly was previously Homeland Security secretary, and his move to the West Wing brought some order to what had been a disorganized and chaotic operation. But it also installed an immigration hard-liner just steps from the Oval Office — with walk-in privileges, which he cut off for many senior advisers. He also cur the portfolios of daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, both senior advisers to Trump.
But Kelly never viewed the job as trying to manage the president, which allowed Trump to at times continue stepping on the White House’s intended messages. And he could not completely keep the entire staff on a short enough leash to prevent damaging insider accounts from making it into the media.
On April 30, for example, a report citing eight former or current White House staffers surfaced that Kelly once called Trump an “idiot” and had frequently questioned the chief executive’s intelligence in front of other staffers. The White House pushed back against the NBC News report with force, with Kelly calling it “total BS” in a statement released shortly after the article was published online.
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