Kelly re­jects re­ports he might re­sign and per­cep­tion of White House chaos

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -

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.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

White House chief of staff John Kelly fielded ques­tions Thurs­day at the daily White House brief­ing.

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