Kelly’s job reportedly hangs by a thread
WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump on Friday accelerated a long-anticipated shake-up of his Cabinet in the wake of the midterm elections, naming new picks for attorney general and U.N. ambassador amid widespread speculation that embattled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly could soon depart.
Trump confirmed his choices of William Barr to lead the Justice Department and Heather Nauert for the United Nations post as he left the White House, speaking to reporters over the din of the whirring blades of Marine One.
CNN reported Friday morning that Kelly could be stepping down in a matter of days, but Trump did not pause long enough to take questions from reporters, though he teased he would make another big personnel announcement at the ArmyNavy game in Philadelphia today.
“I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession,” Trump said.
The Washington Post reported later Friday that individuals familiar with White House plans said Trump is expected to choose Gen. Mark Milley, the head of the Army, to become next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
If his nomination is approved, Milley will replace the current chairman, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., who is due to step down next fall.
Kelly was not at work Friday morning, though an ally said he was simply taking a day off and would be at the White House for a holiday staff dinner Friday night. The lights were off in his West Wing office.
He has not been asked to resign, this person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about a personnel matter. Among White House officials, however, there is broad consensus that his days as chief of staff are numbered.
One senior administration official said Friday that it’s clear Kelly will be leaving, though it’s not certain that the departure was imminent as CNN reported. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
Trump has engaged in talks with Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, about taking over the position, advisers said. The president often remarks on Kelly’s lack of political skills and has told advisers in recent days that he needs a more political chief of staff for his re-election.