Chief of staff:
John Kelly, above, appears to be on the way out as the president inches closer to a long-teased shakeup of the White House staff.
WASHINGTON — President Trump inched closer to his long-teased major White House shake-up Friday, gearing up for the twin challenges of battling for re-election and dealing with the Democrats’ investigations once they take control of the House. The biggest piece of the shifting picture: Chief of Staff John Kelly’s departure now appears certain.
Kelly’s replacement in the coming weeks is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the administration. According to nearly a dozen current and former administration officials and outside confidants, Trump is nearly ready to replace Kelly and has even begun telling people to contact the man long viewed as his likely successor.
“Give Nick a call,” Trump has instructed people, referring to Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Like all of those interviewed, the person spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump has hardly been shy about his dissatisfaction with the team he has chosen, and has been weighing all sorts of changes over the past several months. He delayed some of the biggest until after the November elections at the urging of aides who worried that adding to his already record turnover just before the voting would harm his party’s electoral chances.
Now, nearly a month after those midterms, in which his party surrendered control of the House to Democrats, Trump is making moves.
Ayers, who is a seasoned campaign veteran despite his relative youth — he’s just 36 — has the backing of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law and senior advisers, for the new role, according to White House officials.
Trump and Kelly’s relationship has been strained for months — with Kelly on the verge of resignation and Trump nearly firing him several times. But each time the two have decided to make amends, even as Kelly’s influence has waned.
Kelly, a retired Marine Corps four-star general, was tapped by Trump in August 2017 to try to normalize a White House that had been riven by infighting.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (left) confers with Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, in the White House in August.