Chief of staff Kelly to leave at end of year
WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job by year’s end amid an expected West Wing reshuffling reflecting a focus on the 2020 re-election campaign and the challenge of governing with Democrats reclaiming control of the House.
Nick Ayers, Vice-President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, is Trump’s top choice to replace Kelly, and the two have held discussions for months about the job, a White House official said.
An announcement was expected in the coming days, the president told reporters as he left the White House for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.
Kelly had been credited with imposing order on a chaotic West Wing after his arrival in June 2017 from his post as homeland security secretary. But his iron fist also alienated some longtime Trump allies, and he grew more isolated, with an increasingly diminished role.
“John Kelly will leaving — I don’t know if I can say retiring — but he’s a great guy,” Trump said. “John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year. We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place — it might be on an interim basis. I’ll be announcing that over the next day or two, but John will be leaving at the end of the year. ... I appreciate his service very much.”
Meanwhile, Trump tapped State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert as the next US envoy to the United Nations, whose fairly blank resume in foreign policy may place tough challenges ahead for her, experts said.
Trump announced his decision on Friday, praising the 48-yearold spokeswoman as a “very talented, very smart, very quick” person who worked well with State Secretary Mike Pompeo.
The government’s senior officials, including Pompeo and the White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders, voiced their support for Nauert, a longtime Fox News host before joining the State Department in April 2017, expressing confidence that she will be “a strong voice for the United States” at the UN.
But picking Nauert to represent the country in the international arena is seen by experts as an unorthodox choice, as the veteran news presenter had little political or foreign policymaking experience apart from her less-than-two-year tenure in the State Department.
Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said loyalty was as a key factor. “He (Trump) appointed her because of her personal loyalty to him and alignment with his foreign policy goals,” he said.
However, some experts believe that Nauert may face a tough Senate confirmation hearing over her qualifications.
“The loudest opposition will come from Democrats”, said Galdieri, who believes that Nauert’s almost total lack of diplomatic experience will be the most obvious weak point that the lawmakers will zero in on.
Some scholars acknowledged that Nauert has strong points that weigh in her favor.
“It is worth noting that she has now worked closely with two Secretaries of State over the past two years,” said Dan Mahaffee, the senior vice-president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
Trump on Saturday also announced that he wants General Mark Milley, who has been chief of the Army since August 2015, to be the nation’s next top military adviser.