Trump denies John Kelly’s influence is diminished
President Donald Trump is denying White House chief of staff John Kelly is suffering from diminished credibility and influence following a Washington Post report Saturday on Kelly’s recent struggles.
“Story on John Kelly isn’t true, just another hit job!” Trump wrote in a Sunday tweet that claimed the newspaper produces “far more fiction than fact.”
Trump frequently criticizes the Post and other major news outlets, claiming their reports are untrue. His tweet Sunday morning was deleted and then re-published with a correction to a typo.
The Post reported Trump has started to bypass Kelly, who has sought to control access to the President in a variety of ways. CNN has previously reported on tensions between the President and his chief of staff, including the fact that Kelly has threatened to quit in the midst of clashes with Trump, according to people familiar with the incidents.
In one incident, the Post reports, Kelly threatened to resign in a heated argument with Trump where he attempted to dissuade the President from firing former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But Kelly has told allies that he believes it is his duty to help implement the president’s agenda.
When Trump announced via Twitter last month that Shulkin would be replaced by his personal physician, Ronny Jackson, the Post reports Kelly became so exasperated that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, his former deputy at the White House and chief of staff when he ran the Department of Homeland Security, and Defense Secretary James Mattis sought to calm him down, according to three individuals with knowledge of what happened. It’s unclear why Kelly was so frustrated, but the Post reports that he said, “I’m out of here, guys.”
A senior administration official told the Post that Kelly’s remarks only signified that he was heading home early from work, but the newspaper reported that some people viewed the remarks “as a resignation threat.”
In addition, the Post reports Kelly angered first lady Melania Trump with the firing of John McEntee, a longtime aide to the President, in March. The Post, citing administration officials, reported Melania was “upset over his sudden dismissal” of the aide, who had come under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for financial crimes. But the newspaper did not specify why McEntee’s departure caused her to become angry with Kelly.
In his first tweet of the morning, Trump hit another frequent target of his criticisms: the FBI. The President quoted Fox News host Jesse Waters calling the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton “rigged” and saying investigators never put her under oath, adding, “they exonerated her even before they ever interviewed her.”