He could survive a year and change clashing with President Alpha every day but not even a four-star Marine could outlast Melania.
I believe this is the 100th “Kelly rumored to be leaving soon” post I’ve written since he took the job last year, by the way. It’s my privilege to share this milestone with you.
Honestly, this smells like a pretext.
“There have been instances where the East Wing staff were not treated as equals to the male-dominated decision makers in Chief Kelly’s office,” one White House official said. “Promotions were denied then finally granted after months of requests,” the official said.
Melania Trump raised concerns with her husband earlier this year, amid the height of the controversy over his alleged affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels, that Kelly had repeatedly denied her requests to promote some of her aides, two White House officials told NBC News…
Kelly has also sparred with the East Wing over travel arrangements for the first lady’s staff, people familiar with the issue said. He often wouldn’t reserve space for Melania Trump’s two aides on Air Force One or on helicopters. They would find themselves without hotel rooms and not listed for motorcade movements…
The first lady also took issue with Kelly over the ousting in March of her director of operations, Justin Caporale, and of John McEntee, the president’s personal aide who had become close with the Trump family since working for him during the 2016 campaign, people familiar with the matter said.
Kelly famously moved slowly to oust accused wife-beater Rob Porter, but when it comes to clearing dead wood among the First Lady’s staff he’s johnny on the spot.
It’s weird that he’d short-change the president’s wife in such petty ways, particularly knowing how the paterfamilias dislikes affronts to the family. A brawl with a fellow deputy will be tolerated, maybe even encouraged to see which is “tougher.” But a spat with a Trump? Was Kelly … trying to get fired? Either way, I feel about him leaving the way I felt about Sessions’s demise:
1. This pitifully dysfunctional relationship should have ended months ago.
2. Whatever comes next will be worse because that’s how American politics rolls now.
It was less than four months ago, you may remember, that Kelly told aides that Trump had asked him to stay on as chief of staff through 2020 — and he’d accepted. Now here we are, with the WSJ reporting the names of likely replacements. (Top of the list: Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers, who’s been steadily rising through the ranks of Republican power players for his entire brief adult life.) A key point: “Mr. Trump has told aides that he is aware that forcing out [DHS chief Kirstjen] Nielsen may result in Mr. Kelly quitting.” Various news outlets, including the WSJ, are reporting that Trump has made up his mind to dump Nielsen, dissatisfied with her efforts to reduce illegal immigration at the border. But Nielsen is a Kelly protege and a family friend. He reportedly had a screaming match with John Bolton outside the Oval Office recently when Bolton accused her of poor performance.
Firing Nielsen probably means Kelly will quit in disgust, which may explain why this story about him clashing with Melania Trump is suddenly appearing. “Kelly quits in protest after Trump scapegoats Nielsen for immigration failures” isn’t a great headline for the White House. “Trump fires Kelly for ‘male-dominated’ vendetta against First Lady’s staff” is a better, if much less convincing, one.
There’s more intrigue to Kelly’s battles with Bolton, by the way. Just as Bolton has criticized Kelly’s former deputy Nielsen, Kelly has criticized Bolton’s top deputy at the NSC, Mira Ricardel. Interestingly, Ricardel has also clashed with Melania Trump’s staff: Both NBC and the WSJ claim that there was tension with Ricardel during FLOTUS’s trip to Africa over seats on the plane and their use of NSC resources. Trump has allegedly decided to remove Ricardel and is waiting to give the order, presumably while Bolton lobbies him for a change of heart. It’s impossible from the outside to penetrate this thicket of bruised egos and prima-donna-ing to tell whose motives are pure, i.e. policy-based, and who’s acting out of spite and revenge on behalf of a personal friend. Is Kelly after Ricardel’s job to pay Bolton back for his opposition to Nielsen — or is it the other way around? Is the bickering between the West Wing and the East Wing a real thing or is it being exaggerated to create a pretext to oust personnel like Kelly and Ricardel whom Trump wants gone for other reasons? (Ricardel has reportedly also clashed with Mattis and his staff at the Pentagon over policy.) What a sh*tshow. Who’d want to be chief of staff with a staff like this?
Oh, one more thing from the WSJ: There’s no number two at DHS right now and the number three reportedly isn’t ready for the big job if Nielsen should suddenly be pink-slipped. Trump may have to lateral over someone from another agency who’s already been confirmed by the Senate to take Nielsen’s place for awhile, or else he’ll have to pull another Matt Whitaker and seek to promote a senior official within DHS itself to director and hope that that’s constitutional. One possible replacement he could name is … John Kelly, who was confirmed by the Senate as DHS chief last year before he resigned to take the chief of staff job. But why would Kelly do Trump the favor of filling a hole created by the firing of his own protege?
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