Home / U.S. / & # 39; When you lose that power & # 39 ;: How John Kelly vanished as a White House disciplinarian

& # 39; When you lose that power & # 39 ;: How John Kelly vanished as a White House disciplinarian

After White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly pressured President Trump last fall to install his chief deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, the Department of Homeland Security, the president lost his temper when the allies Conservatives argued that line was not hard enough on immigration. "You did not tell me it was [expletive] George W. Bush's person," Trump growled.

After Kelly told Fox News Channel's Bret Baier in an interview in January that Trump's immigration views had not been "fully informed" during the campaign and since then "evolved," the president rebuked Kelly in the Oval Office; his screams were so loud that they could be heard through the doors.

And less than two weeks ago, Kelly was so frustrated the day Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Nielsen and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis tried to calm him down and offered pep talks, according to three people with knowledge of the incident.

"I'm leaving, guys," Kelly said. some interpreted it as a threat of resignation, but according to a senior administration official, he was expressing anger and leaving work an hour or two before returning home.

The recurring and growing confrontations between the president and his chief of staff trace the downward arc of Kelly's eight months in the White House. Both his credibility and his influence have declined severely, administration officials said, a clear decline for the retired four-star Marines general who came with a reputation for integrity and a mandate to bring order to a chaotic west wing. 19659006] White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on the right and then Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen prepare to board Marine One last summer. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)

Kelly does not roam the Oval Office nor hear so many calls from the president, even with foreign leaders. He has not been consulted in full on several recent decisions about key personnel. And he has lost the confidence and support of some of the staff, as well as angered first lady Melania Trump, who according to authorities was upset by her sudden dismissal of Johnny McEntee, the personal assistant of the 27-year-old president . [19659002] "When you lose that power," said Leon Panetta, former White House Democratic chief of staff, "you become a virtual intern of the White House, and they tell you where to go and what to do."

Portrait of Kelly The trajectory is based on interviews with 16 administration officials, external advisors and confidants of the presidency, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to evaluate the chief of staff. Kelly rejected requests for interviews.

Largely because of his military credentials, Kelly continues to command a level of respect from Trump that sometimes eluded his predecessor, Reince Priebus, whom the president would mockingly call "Reincey." As national security and immigration, Trump continues to listen to Kelly. And despite all the obvious chaos, the west wing now presents fewer battles and dysfunctions than in the first months, when Trump put Priebus on an equal footing with then-chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

A senior White House official disputed Kelly's relationship with Trump has been especially turbulent in recent weeks, and noted that the president still talks to Kelly more than any other official. This official explained that Kelly initially considered his job as a nanny, but now feels less the need to be omnipresent, while Trump, who once considered Kelly a security layer, feels increasingly emboldened to act alone.

from staff John F. Kelly told them to provide information about the dismissal of staff secretary Rob Porter, which contradicts other reports. Aaron Blake of The Fix explains how this escape could indicate that the end is close to Kelly. (Joyce Koh / The Washington Post)

But inside and outside the White House, Kelly's credibility has suffered a string of misstatements, most recently about her handling of domestic abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter and about Trump's decision to expel Army Lt. Gen. HR McMaster as national security adviser. And despite all the structure it has brought to the bureaucracy, colleagues still see Kelly as a bit deaf in dealing with politics.

Kelly is the latest high-profile example of an Icarus Wing: sweeping high in Trump's orbit, only to be scorched and spoiled. Almost all those who entered the White House were abused: they converted an auction (former press secretary Sean Spicer), a Justice Department target (former national security adviser Michael Flynn) or a reduced carapace, fired by a tweet president (former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson).

No one knows how many days Kelly has left, but when he leaves, either because of the president's hand or because of growing frustration, he will almost certainly limp away.

"Everyone in Donald's orbit" Trump is absorbed and tarnished or destroyed, "said Chris Whipple, author of" The Gatekeepers, "a story of the White House chiefs of staff." Kelly has clouded over, not there is doubt about it "

& # 39; How is Kelly? & # 39;

When Kelly, the then secretary of national security, was appointed chief of staff at the end of last July, the news was received with Many Trump observers hoped that Kelly would prove to be a voice of reason and moderation in an administration that is often perceived as being out of control, and many assistants in the west wing also welcomed the new discipline, thinking that the regime Kelly would free them to do their job.

Initially, at least, Kelly succeeded.He started to close the door of the Oval Office, so attendees could not wander in or out and hoping to influence the president e on issues that were not within its scope of competence. He made smaller meetings, which helped reduce leaks to the press and make conversations more efficient. And it limited the number of attendees who had oval office privileges to a small group.

"I did not know that the Oval Office even had a door," a member of Kelly's staff joked several months after taking it. Kelly, meanwhile, marveled that in the first days the staff still came chatting on their cell phones.

Under Kelly's supervision, the president now holds "Policy Time" sessions once or twice a day where the advisors present and discuss their opposing views on a specific problem, with the Trump presidency. It has also implemented bimonthly Cabinet meetings, with a focused agenda, as well as restored order for the morning's senior staff meeting. And attendance for most of the Oval Office meetings is still conducted through Kelly's office.

But about a month after Kelly's tenure, Trump began to get irritated by the restrictions. The president invited the staff and cabinet secretaries to the Oval Office without scheduled appointments and called friends and advisers late at night, without Kelly's approval. A first sign of trouble came when Trump probed confidants about his executor: "What do you think of Kelly? How's Kelly?" The president asked.

Kelly was an intimidating presence, confiding to some colleagues that he preferred to be feared rather than loved. However, he was reluctant to be the bearer of bad news. Enter Nielsen, who centralized power as his executor, winning his internal enemies.

Kelly requested employees to support him in writing when the president violated his processes, for example, by calling a staff member to demand action after watching a segment of Fox News. But several attendees said they found Kelly difficult when they filled it retroactively. He often repeated a version of the same answer: "I guess you're now the chief of staff, why do not you handle it?"

There were also other signs of tension. At first, Kelly called a video conference with attendees who were with Trump on vacation at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J. It was sent from Washington but it exploded when the audio did not work. "This is [expletive] ridiculous," he said, canceling the meeting and leaving the room. Attendees who had not been aware of his temper were stunned.

Days after the publication of "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff, a devastating description of the west wing, informed by Wolff's unsupervised time hours there, Kelly rebuked senior staff. saying that the book should never have happened. "This place was a [expletive] before we got here," Kelly said.

Although some staff members were considered unfairly criticized, others agreed with their evaluation.

During Porter's crisis, Kelly found herself under intense scrutiny for the veracity of her whipsaw statements. He publicly praised Porter and urged him privately to stay. But Kelly later claimed that he had demanded Porter's resignation only 40 minutes after learning the details of the accusations, which conflicted with the official White House account delivered by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Many senior officials were convinced that Kelly was distorting facts to try to exonerate himself, although some others say his account was accurate.

In March, Kelly again offered contradictory explanations. In private he told the staff that Trump had decided to expel McMaster. But after the Washington Post reported that Trump had made his decision, Kelly began to tell the others otherwise, while keeping with some Trump advisors that the president's decision had been made. Some advisors thought Kelly was using the president to push a personal vendetta against McMaster.

In an out-of-register session with reporters, parts of which were later reported, Kelly also said that when she called Tillerson to let him know she was fired, the Secretary of State was in the bathroom with "Montezuma's revenge". Although White House aides said that Kelly was merely joking, and the State Department challenged his version of the phone call, many staff members considered the comment crude and demeaning.

"At the top, there is someone who constantly does not tell the truth," said James K. Glassman, founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute. "That is a signal to the people below him that they do not have to tell the truth either, that this is the way we conduct the government: we lie when we have to do it, we mistreat people when we have to do it, we humiliate them."

Irritation and respect

In many ways, the Trump-Kelly alliance was always going to be tense. As a business executive, Trump is flexible and unrestrained, prone to impulses and whims. As a retired general, Kelly is structured and partial to hierarchies and rigor.

As chief of staff, Kelly assumed the disciplinary role. He faced bitter factions, especially among those whose access to the White House had cut (such as Anthony Scaramucci, whose 11-day management as communications director ended with Kelly) or restricted (as Corey Lewandowski, Trump's first campaign manager) . [19659002] Kelly's tensions with Lewandowski faded at the end of February, during a meeting with the president. Kelly entered the Oval Office, saw Lewandowski and complained that Lewandowski had been attacking him on TV because of Porter's rain, but he was not willing to tell her to face it. There was an explosion, with Trump ordering the two to get along. They left the Oval Office for a less heated conversation, then re-entered and announced a truce.

When asked about the incident, Lewandowski replied: "I am on the team of President Trump and every person who supports this president, which includes John Kelly, on the team that I am on."

Since last fall, tensions between Kelly and Trump have blossomed in episodic bursts.

In a controversial incident in the fall, when Trump moved to fire Tillerson, Kelly dissuaded him during a heated argument in which he threatened to resign. Trump told Kelly that he could keep "his man", but he soon got his revenge, tweeting "Save Rex Energy" in North Korea.

In fact, Kelly has threatened to quit on multiple occasions: "It's a kind of weekly event," joked a senior White House official, although officials explained his statements as expressions of momentary frustration. first time some details about the threat of Kelly's resignation in March.)

More recently, Trump has told his friends that he is eager to organize more energetic and frantic marches, another realm where he can theoretically slide Kelly's chains.

"There has to be a link here between the chief of staff and the staff and the president, and that fundamental bond has been broken," said Panetta, also a former secretary of defense and director of the CIA. "When that happens, it's only a matter of time. "

A Trump adviser said the president" does not like much of what he's done. "He often gets angry and says," Who do you think this guy is? "But Kelly has more P chances to survive because Trump respects him. "

And there are indications that Kelly is adapting to Trump's world. Last month, the chief of staff, who once blew sparks over the access that was given to Wolff, had time on his agenda for an interview with the book. For approximately 30 minutes, Kelly sat down with Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro for her next volume.


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