Em­bat­tled Trump re­places chief of staff

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON (AFP) — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ousted his be­lea­guered chief of staff Reince Priebus on Fri­day, re­plac­ing him with Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary and for­mer gen­eral John Kelly af­ter vi­cious White House in­fight­ing spilled into the open.

Only hours af­ter a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat on health care re­form had un­der­lined his ten­u­ous con­trol over his party in Congress, Trump an­nounced a sec­ond shakeup of his in­ner cir­cle in barely a week.

Since en­ter­ing the White House six months ago, Trump has parted com­pany with his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, FBI di­rec­tor, press sec­re­tary, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, deputy chief of staff and now chief of staff, a turnover of top of­fi­cials that is un­par­al­leled in U.S. po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

Priebus has been un­der fire for months, see­ing one White House ally af­ter an­other re­sign or leave, cul­mi­nat­ing in the de­par­ture of press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer a week ago.

His exit ap­peared in­evitable when Trump did not in­ter­vene as his new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor An­thony Scara­mucci pub­licly de­scribed Priebus as a “para­noid schiz­o­phrenic” in a foul-mouthed tirade that also saw him sav­age an­other top Trump aide.

Trump an­nounced the switch on Twit­ter as he landed in Wash­ing­ton af­ter a day trip, on which he was ac­com­pa­nied by both Priebus and Scara­mucci.

“I am pleased to in­form you that I have just named Gen­eral/Sec­re­tary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump tweeted.

“He is a Great Amer­i­can... and a Great Leader. John has also done a spec­tac­u­lar job at Home­land Se­cu­rity. He has been a true star of my Ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

As the tweet be­gan to re­ver­ber­ate around Wash­ing­ton, Priebus ex­ited Air Force One into the pour­ing rain and loaded into a black sub­ur­ban with se­nior White House aides Steven Miller and Dan Scavino.

Mo­ments later, Miller and Scavino got out and en­tered an­other van. Priebus’s ve­hi­cle then left the pres­i­den­tial mo­tor­cade.

White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said dis­cus­sions about Priebus’s de­par­ture had been tak­ing place for weeks.

Priebus later said he re­signed on Thurs­day, but re­fer­ring to his de­par­ture ad­mit­ted that he and Trump “talked all the time about this sub­ject.”

New law and or­der fo­cus?

Kelly will be sworn in to his new post Mon­day.

His De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity is re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing bor­der se­cu­rity and has taken a tough line on im­mi­grants in­side the United States.

The move likely sig­nals a greater fo­cus on law and or­der is­sues and will put fur­ther strain on re­la­tions be­tween Trump and the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment.

Both Priebus and Spicer were part of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, and the bridge that linked the party to Trump.

“I think we’ve still got a good re­la­tion­ship, we’re go­ing to con­tinue work­ing with the party,” said San­ders, try­ing to dis­count no­tions of a rift.

The an­nounce­ment of Priebus’s de­par­ture came af­ter three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors de­fied White House pres­sure to vote against health care re­forms, which ex­perts pre­dicted would have left mil­lions more Amer­i­cans with­out cov­er­age.

The party re­bel­lion — led by Sen­a­tors Su­san Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain — is a deeply omi­nous sign for Trump, whose po­lit­i­cal brand is de­fined by his deal­mak­ing acu­men and a take-no-pris­on­ers ap­proach to pol­i­tics.

There are grow­ing signs that Trump’s threats against skep­ti­cal Repub­li­cans are los­ing po­tency, when Repub­li­cans not only killed ef­forts to dis­man­tle Oba­macare, but joined Democrats in sup­port­ing a new sanc­tions regime against Rus­sia.

The sanc­tions bill — which also in­cludes mea­sures tar­get­ing North Korea and Iran — is de­signed to restrict Trump’s abil­ity to lift puni­tive mea­sures on Moscow.

Trump now faces a choice be­tween swal­low­ing a bill he deeply op­posed and re­fus­ing to do so — a move that would in­ten­sify sus­pi­cions about his at­ti­tude to Rus­sia and likely bring a hu­mil­i­at­ing veto over­ride.

The grim news from Congress came as an outburst from Scara­mucci high­lighted di­vi­sions within the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In an eye-wa­ter­ing ex­change with a New Yorker re­porter pub­lished late Thurs­day, Scara­mucci de­scribed Priebus as a “para­noid schiz­o­phrenic” and chief White House strate­gist Steve Ban­non as try­ing to build his own brand off Trump.

Scara­mucci, a mil­lion­aire New York fi­nancier who is go­ing through a di­vorce, ar­rived at the White House vow­ing to serve Trump’s in­ter­est and right a badly fal­ter­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.


U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly lis­ten to the na­tional an­them dur­ing com­mence­ment ex­er­cises at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New Lon­don, Conn., in this May 17 photo. Trump moved to over­haul his se­nior team,...

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