Chief of staff takes charge — de­ci­sively

Scara­mucci re­moved as com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor af­ter less than two weeks. Kelly given free rein to tighten chain of com­mand in tu­mul­tuous White House.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Lemire and Cather­ine Lucey

It didn’t take long for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s new chief of staff to take charge in an un­ruly White House: Just hours af­ter he was sworn in, for­mer Gen. John Kelly made sure that Trump’s pro­fan­ity-spout­ing new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor was gone, ig­no­min­iously ousted af­ter less than two weeks on the job.

It was the lat­est head-snap­ping se­quence of events at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Ave., but Trump dis­missed any talk of dis­ar­ray. He in­sisted in a morn­ing tweet there was “No WH chaos,” and then fol­lowed up in the evening with a sat­is­fied “great day at the White House.”

Aim­ing to in­still some dis­ci­pline in the White House, Kelly showed An­thony Scara­mucci the door just days af­ter the new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor had un­leashed an ex­ple­tive-laced tirade against se­nior staff mem­bers that in­cluded vul­gar broad­sides at then-chief of staff Reince Priebus. In short or­der, Priebus was pushed aside and re­placed by Kelly, whose ar­rival led in turn to Scara­mucci’s de­par­ture.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor’s ten­ure was the stuff of Shake­spear­ian drama — though brief enough to be just a mor­bid son­net.

Scara­mucci’s exit un­der­scored the chal­lenges that Kelly, the for­mer home­land se­cu­rity chief, faces in bring­ing or­der to a West Wing where a wide swath of aides have re­ported di­rectly to the pres­i­dent, feel­ing free to walk into Trump’s Oval Of­fice or but­ton­hole him in the hall­way to lobby for con­flict­ing agen­das. Back­stab­bing among aides has been rife, and ri­val camps have jock­eyed for po­si­tion.

And then there is the pres­i­dent him­self, who uses tweets at all hours to fling out new pol­icy an­nounce­ments, in­sult crit­ics and even go af­ter fel­low Repub­li­cans who don’t toe his line.

On Kelly’s first day, the White House put out word that the re­tired four-star gen­eral had free rein to tighten the chain of com­mand.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders said Kelly “has the

full au­thor­ity to carry out busi­ness as he sees fit” and that all White House staffers will re­port to him, in­clud

ing pow­er­ful aides such as Trump’s daugh­ter, Ivanka Trump; her hus­band, Jared Kush­ner; and chief strategist Steve Ban­non.

Kelly “will bring new struc­ture, dis­ci­pline and strength” to the White House, San­ders said.

The chief of staff took his oath of of­fice early Mon­day in an Oval Of­fice cer­e­mony thronged by se­nior staffers, in­clud­ing Scara­mucci. But a short time later, Kelly told the com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor he was out, lead­ing Scar- amucci to of­fer his res­ig­na­tion in­stead, ac­cord­ing to four White House staffers and out­side ad­vis­ers not au­tho- rized to speak pub­licly about per­son­nel mat­ters.

In the brief, cold words of the White House an­nounce- ment, Scara­mucci was leav-

ing be­cause he “felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the abil­ity to build his own team.” The three-sen­tence re­lease con­cluded, “We wish him all the best.”

The state­ment re­vived the “clean slate” lan­guage that for­mer White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer had used to de­scribe his own rea­son for re­sign­ing on the day Trump brought Scara­mucci aboard.

Scara­mucci was es­corted from the White House grounds, be­com­ing yet another high-ranking offi- cial to leave an ad­min­is­tra-

tion that is barely beyond the six-month mark. He was the third per­son to hold the com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor ti­tle in that time.

While in most ad­min­is­tra- tions the chief of staff closely man­ages the pres­i­dent’s time and oth­ers’ ac­cess to the Oval Of­fice, Priebus never was able to pre­vent Trump from con­tin­u­ing the same dis­or­derly style he had cre­ated atop his busi­ness.

Scara­mucci had been blocked from join­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion dur­ing the tran­si­tion by Priebus, only to even­tu­ally be hired by Trump last week. That de­ci­sion, over the ob­jec­tions of Priebus and Ban­non, led to

the res­ig­na­tion of Spicer and fu­eled Scara­mucci’s pro­fane vows of vengeance against White House staffers who had op­posed him or leaked to the press.

Days of neg­a­tive news cov­er­age of Scara­mucci’s crass rant did not sit well with the pres­i­dent, though Trump him­self is no stranger to us­ing coarse lan­guage, in­clud­ing boasts of grop­ing women in a 2005 “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape leaked last year.

“The pres­i­dent cer­tainly felt that An­thony’s com­ments were in­ap­pro­pri­ate for a per- son in his po­si­tion,” Sand- ers said when asked about the ouster. Ban­non also told al­lies that the com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor was a neg­a­tive dis­trac­tion. And though Ban- non had clashed with Kelly

over the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Trump’s first travel ban, he pledged to work closely with the new chief of staff.

Scara­mucci’s al­lies floated the idea of Scara­mucci re­turn­ing to his chief strat­egy of­fi­cer post at the Ex­port-Im­port Bank. San­ders said he “does not have a role at this time” with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

As the Scara­mucci news spread, Kelly was in the East Room, smil­ing and tak­ing pic­tures with guests who had gath­ered for a Medal of Honor pre­sen­ta­tion. A jovial Spicer also was in at­ten­dance, say­ing he was there to as­sist with the com­mu­ni­ca­tions tran­si­tion, though San­ders said she was not aware of any plans for him to re­sume his old job.

Af­ter swear­ing in Kelly, Trump con­vened his full Cab­i­net, in­clud­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, the tar­get of re­cent pub­lic re­bukes from the pres­i­dent. San­ders later brushed aside talk of yet another abrupt shuf­fle: the idea of Ses­sions leav­ing

the Jus­tice Depart­ment to re­place Kelly at Home­land Se­cu­rity. The pres­i­dent has no such plans, she said.

Trump, for his part, ig­nored the tur­moil and de­clared that his ad­min­is­tra­tion was hum­ming along smoothly.

“Over­all, I think we’re do­ing in­cred­i­bly well,” he said. “The econ­omy is do­ing in­cred­i­bly well, and many other things.”

DOUG MILLS / NEW YORK TIMES

Still serv­ing as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, An­thony Scara­mucci (cen­ter) is sur­rounded by re­porters while Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump meets with John Kelly, his new chief of staff, in the Oval Of­fice on Mon­day. A short time later, Scara­mucci was re­moved from his po­si­tion.

DOUG MILLS / NEW YORK TIMES

John Kelly, who pre­vi­ously served as Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, will have all White House staffers, in­clud­ing Ivanka Trump, re­port to him.

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