President Trump and his Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, are pushing back on reports that Kelly has repeatedly referred to the President as an “idiot” and that he has characterized his role in the White House as one of a bulwark against would-be disaster wrought by an inexperienced president who makes erratic decisions.
“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” Mr. Kelly said in a statement. “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the president, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”
Although not mentioning Kelly by name, the President alluded to the reports in a tweet challenging the notion that the White House has a dysfunctional work environment.
“The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist). They are totally unhinged, and the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying. Truly bad people!” the President wrote.
NBC broke the news that multiple White House staffers allegedly heard Mr. Kelly disparage President Trump’s grasp of policy issues as well as understanding of the functions of government. They’ve heard Kelly refer to Trump as an “idiot” several times to emphasize his point, they say.
“He says stuff you can’t believe. He’ll say it and you think, ‘That is not what you should be saying,'” one White House official says of Kelly.
There have been reports in recent weeks that the President and Kelly’s relationship has soured and that Kelly may be on the way out of the White House. Some have Kelly leaving by July, his one-year mark.
The source of the friction, according to sources, is Trump’s reluctance to adhere to restrictions imposed by Kelly on the Trump’s freewheeling, and border-line chaotic, management style.
Kelly was originally hired as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security at the beginning of the Trump administration. Last summer, when then-chief-of-staff Reince Priebus was dismissed, Kelly was brought in to the West Wing to establish discipline.
Kelly scaled back the number of White House staffers freely allowed to walk into the Oval Office, structured the President’s time in a way that facilitated policy debate and has instituted orderly Cabinet meetings as well as senior staff meetings.
The President began to resist the structure early on however. He would invite staff and Cabinet members into the Oval Office without Kelly’s permission and would make calls to advisers, as well as outside friends, at night without Kelly’s knowledge.
There are also reports that the President still resents Kelly’s comments from earlier in the year in which he claimed responsibility for softening the President’s views on immigration and implied the President wasn’t knowledgeable about some of the details of the debate. Kelly reportedly called the President’s views on immigration “uninformed.”
“[He] has evolved in the way he’s looked at things. Campaigns and governing are two different things,” Kelly reportedly said. Kelly has denied making the comments.
President Trump has been made personnel changes to his Cabinet, as well as White House staff, over the last several months. Most recently he has hired former financial television personality Larry Kudlow to be his national economic adviser, and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to be his National Security Adviser.
Photo by U.S. Department of Homeland Security