Kelly rejects reports he might resign and perception of White House chaos
WASHINGTON — The retired general brought in to instill order at a chaotic White House made a rare public appearance Thursday to declare he’s staying in his post — and to insist that the president’s volatile Twitter feed wasn’t making his job harder.
“Unless things change, I’m not quitting, I’m not getting fired and I don’t think I’ll fire anyone tomorrow,” chief of staff John Kelly told reporters during a surprise showing at the daily White House briefing. “I don’t think I’m being fired today, and I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.”
The extraordinary statement drew a bit of laughter, but it reflected ongoing turmoil in the top ranks of a White House riven by staff changes, internal feuds and reports that Kelly is growing increasingly frustrated.
President Donald Trump, in turn, has at times chafed at Kelly’s efforts to rein in the freewheeling, open-door style that marked his business career and early months in the White House.
The president has taken to leaving the Oval Office at times to engage aides, solicit opinions and recreate the unfettered feeling he has told allies he misses, according to two people who have spoken recently to the president but were not authorized to discuss private conversations.
Kelly pushed back against recent reports that he and Trump were at odds but acknowledged he has organized the White House more tightly and changed how people interact with the president.
“I restrict no one, by the way, from going in to see him,” Kelly said. “But when we go in to see him now, rather than the onesies and twosies, we go in and help him collectively understand what — what he needs to understand to make these vital decisions.”
Kelly called his chief of staff position the hardest and the most important job he’s ever held — but not the best one. That would be enlisted Marine sergeant infantryman.
Kelly’s 23-minute appearance, the latest in a series of public proclamations of loyalty to Trump from his underlings, underscored the challenges he faces working for an ideologically flexible and at times bellicose president.
He said he hoped for a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis even though Trump has ridiculed the notion. He insisted that the White House “will stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done,” just hours after Trump appeared to threaten to end relief efforts to the hurricane-ravaged island.
And he denied that Trump’s impulsive and sometimes inflammatory tweets made his job more difficult but insisted he made no effort to curb them.
White House chief of staff John Kelly fielded questions Thursday at the daily White House briefing.