Trump shows Priebus the door
Homeland chief new staff leader
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has ousted his White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and named his homeland security secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, to replace him, the president announced on Twitter on Friday afternoon.
“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump wrote. “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.
“I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country,” the president continued. “We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!”
Priebus said he had offered his resignation on Thursday and the president accepted.
“I think the president wanted to go a different direction,” Priebus told CNN just hours after his exit was announced. He added that he agreed the White House might well benefit from “a
reset,” and he said, “I’m always going to be a Trump fan. I’m on Team Trump.”
Friday’s announcement capped a week of conflict between Priebus and Trump’s newly appointed White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, who in a vulgarity-laced public rebuke had accused the chief of staff of leaking damaging information about him.
Priebus, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, had been named to the post in part to bring political experience to the Trump White House. But he clashed with Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier, and had been under siege by Trump advisers inside and outside of the White House who complained that he was ineffectual.
After Scaramucci was named communications director last week against Priebus’ objections, White House officials widely believed that Priebus’ position had become more imperiled.
Scaramucci’s appointment also had been opposed by Priebus’ ally Sean Spicer, then the press secretary, who resigned in protest.
On Friday, as Trump traveled to an event in Long Island, N.Y., he took both Scaramucci and Priebus with him.
Asked to comment on the changes, Trump told reporters traveling with him on Air Force One that Priebus is a “good man” and that Kelly is “respected by everybody.”
After returning to Washington, Priebus did not respond to reporters’ shouted questions, though he later released a statement saying it was “one of the greatest honors of my life” to serve as chief of staff. His term totaled fewer than 200 days, the shortest tenure for any president’s first White House chief of staff since the post was formally established in 1946.
Priebus and Spicer, the former press secretary, had told the president that they believed Scaramucci, a hedgefund manager and fundraiser, lacked the political experience and organizational skills required to serve in the role of communications director.
Scaramucci made clear when he was hired that he reported not to Priebus but directly to the president, and by Wednesday night, he was publicly suggesting that the chief of staff was a leaker and even threatened to seek an FBI investigation. On Thursday, he went on television and dared Priebus to deny leaking and described the two of them as Cain and Abel, the biblical brothers whose rivalry results in one killing the other.
On Thursday evening, The New Yorker posted an interview with Scaramucci that included a vulgarity- laced tirade against Priebus. He called Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” who leaked information against him and vowed to get him fired. “He’ll be asked to resign very shortly,” Scaramucci said.
As party chairman last year, Priebus was slow to embrace Trump’s candidacy, and the president, who sometimes called him “Reincey” in private, never let his chief of staff forget it. Trump had often joked about his chief of staff’s long-term loyalty and liked reminding the people around him that Priebus suggested that he consider dropping out after the release of the Access Hollywood tape of Trump’s crude remarks about women in October.
A native of Kenosha, Wis., Priebus rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to be his state’s chairman, amassing power by establishing relationships with party donors and becoming an effective operator within the national party, which he was chosen to lead in 2011. One of his top allies was a fellow Republican from Wisconsin, House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Ryan, in a statement, said Priebus “has left it all out on the field, for our party and our country.” Ryan added that he looked forward to working with Kelly.
The retired general, for his part, said he is “honored to be asked” to take the job.
As homeland security secretary, Kelly has taken the lead on some of Trump’s most contentious policies, including his executive orders suspending the admission of refugees and temporarily barring visitors from several Muslim-majority nations. Those orders have been stripped down by courts pending a Supreme Court review this fall.
People who know Kelly said in interviews that he was not aware of the details of those initial orders until around the time that Trump signed them. Yet, just days after taking office, Kelly had to lead the agency as it dealt with the confusion that ensued at airports in the U.S. and around the world. He defended the orders to reporters and lawmakers and insisted that he indeed had been part of the decision-making process.
Kelly has also pushed for support for Trump’s signature campaign pledge to build a wall along the southern border, though he acknowledged at his confirmation hearing that “a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job.”
Kelly has a warm rapport with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has worked closely with him on shaping the administration’s border enforcement policy. They have built a connection over their families’ military service. Bannon, a former Navy officer, has a daughter who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Kelly is also well-liked by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Kushner has described him to associates as the kind of figure he’d like to see have more say in the administration.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent Trump critic, said that, as homeland security chief, Kelly has “been very effective in engaging members of Congress and communicating a coherent message for the president.”
“Secretary Kelly is one of the strongest and most natural leaders I’ve ever known,” Graham said.
Yet at least one Trump adviser was opposed to the choice, arguing that Kelly did not have the political background for the job.
“The president needs someone who understands the Trump constituency as his chief of staff, someone who has both administrative skills and political savvy,” said Roger Stone, Trump’s off-and-on adviser, anticipating Kelly’s selection before the announcement was made.
Information for this article was contributed by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New
York Times; by Abby Phillip and Robert Costa of The Washington
Post; and by Jonathan Lemire, Jill Colvin, Catherine Lucey, Vivian Salama, Steve Peoples and Laurie Kellman of The Associated Press.
Reince Priebus heads to Air Force One on Friday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
President Donald Trump, shown with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in May at the Coast Guard Academy commencement in New London, Conn., named Kelly as his new chief of staff Friday.