President Donald Trump has confirmed that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will be departing his position at the end of the year.
The president told reporters the news on Saturday as he departed the White House to attend an Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, reported the Associated Press.
“John Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say retiring — but he’s a great guy,” Trump told reporters, the AP reported. “John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year. We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place — it might be on an interim basis. I’ll be announcing that over the next day or two, but John will be leaving at the end of the year. … I appreciate his service very much.”
The news came amid multiple reports that Kelly was expected to resign soon following a tumultuous battle in the White House with the president.
Two White House insiders provided CNN insight into Kelly’s fraught relationship with Trump, explaining that the pair has reached an impasse. Kelly first took on the position 17 months ago and, like many White House officials, has had bitter battles while trying to navigate his relationship with the president and others in the administration. According to CNN, the two men are no longer speaking to each other.
Nick Ayers, who is currently Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, is considered a top contender to take Kelly’s place, according to Politico.
Kelly is a retired general who replaced Reince Priebus in July 2017. In May 2018, he vehemently denied reports that he called the president an “idiot,” calling the reports “total BS.”
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“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” said Kelly in a statement, per NBC News. “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.”
One large misstep for Kelly occurred after top aide Rob Porter faced domestic abuse allegations from his two ex-wives, which led to his resignation. Kelly was roundly criticized for his own show of support for the ousted aide. After Porter’s ex-wives came forward with their stories, Kelly defended Porter as a “man of true integrity and honor” in a statement.
For Trump’s part, he has been increasingly critical of the White House chief of staff. According to the CNN report, the president is worried that Democrats will have control in the House in January, and feels that Kelly is not politically wise enough to help him navigate the last two years of his term. Since he took on the position, Kelly has reportedly been close to being ousted many times.
More recently, Trump has also found ways to get around the rules and policies that his chief of staff has tried to enforce, per CNN. The report also explained that in the past few months, Kelly has “seen his status as chief of staff diminish.”
Another foreboding sign was Kelly’s absence on Friday, Dec. 7. He didn’t join other top aides who traveled with the president to Kansas City, according to Politico. Two staffers told the outlet that Friday’s senior staff meeting, which Kelly normally orchestrates, was canceled.