Retired general reportedly fails to contain Trump or end White House in-fighting
Developments on Day 443 of the Trump Administration:
Trump “Emboldened to Act Alone”
Donald Trump has reportedly pushed aside Chief of Staff John Kelly, the retired four-star Marine general who was supposed to bring order to the White House when he was appointed last July.
Kelly replaced Reince Priebus, who had been undermined and rendered ineffective both by the tempermental Trump and by factional factions in the West Wing. Kelly, who had been Director of Homeland Security, was presented as a steady hand who — alongside two other generals, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster — would contain the President.
But only weeks later, Trump spun out of control in his effective absolution of white supremacy over marches in Charlottesville, Virginia. And Kelly found himself part of the factional disputes, with his camp facing others trying to restrict the Chief of Staff.
Now McMaster is gone, dismissed last month by Trump to be replaced by the hawkish John Bolton. So is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Mattis is concentrating on preventing any damage to the Pentagon after it obtained additional funding from Congress for this year.
In its portrayal this morning, The Washington Post sets out how Trump quickly slipped Kelly’s leash. It explains how the President repeatedly pushed back the Chief of Staff over immigration, complaining that his deputy Kirstjen Nielsen — who would replace Kelly at Homeland Security — was not a hardliner but a “George W. Bush person” and lashing out in January when Kelly said Trump’s immigration views had not been “fully informed” during the campaign and had since “evolved”.
Less than two weeks ago, Kelly had to be calmed down by Nielsen and Mattis after Trump suddenly fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, “according to three people with knowledge of the incident”.
“I’m out of here, guys,” Kelly said. leading some to fear that he might resign. Instead, the Chief of Staff left work early.
But while he stays on, Kelly has now been put at a distance by Trump, officials say. He is not consulted on key personnel decisions, amid Trump’s “purge” to reshape his Cabinet, and he does not listen in on as many of Trump’s calls, include with foreign leaders.
Other portions of the Post story appear to be volleys by the White House factions opposed to Kelly.He is said to have “lost the trust and support of some of the staff” and angered Melania Trump, upset by Kelly’s sudden dismissal of Trump’s personal aide Johnny McEntee — reportedly over gambling debts.
Some of the Post’s 16 sources push back on the notion of Kelly’s weakness, saying Trump still consults himself over national security matters. A “senior White House official” maintained that Trump still talks to Kelly more than any other staff member.
But even that official tipped off a President escaping containment, with the Post summarizing, “Trump, who once considered Kelly a security blanket, feels increasingly emboldened to act alone”.