White House Chief of Staff John Kellywill leave his post by the end of the year, after 18 months after signing on promising to impose order on the West Wing
President Trump made this announcement to reporter on Saturday prior to departing for Philadelphia to attend the annual Army-Navy football game.
“John Kelly will be leaving, retiring. I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring,’” Trump said. “But he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.”
Calling Kelly a “great guy,” Trump added that he would be announcing his replacement within the next few days.
“I appreciate his service very much,” he added.
Kelly, a four-star Marine general who previously served as Department of Homeland Security secretary, was brought in after Trump fired then-chief of staff Reince Priebus in July 2017. During his time, he brought order to a chaotic White House, working to limit access to the Oval Office and changing multiple high-profile jobs such as White House communications director and national security adviser.
Over the summer, the president said that he and Kelly were “getting along very well,” and called his chief of staff “a wonderful man,” amid reports and rumors of Kelly’s exit from the administration have floated around Washington, D.C. for months. The relationship between the president and Kelly deteriorated after rampant reports emerged of the General privately insulting his boss and complaining about his misery working at the White House to friends and lawmakers.
Journalist Bob Woodward reported in his book “Fear” that Kelly called Trump “unhinged” and an “idiot,” while likening the White House to “crazytown.” Kelly denied such reports that he called the president an idiot.
The White House in July stated that Kelly would remain as chief of staff through the 2020 presidential election following a barrage of stories saying his departure was bound to happen this year. The announcement comes amid a shakeup of staff by the president. On Friday, he announced that he had picked William Barr for attorney general and Heather Nauert for U.N. ambassador.
According to a source close to the White House, Kelly was heard telling his friends that he would only leave his post if Trump asked him too. That idea changed to Kelly leaving on his own accord in May after being furious of Trump berating Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, a chosen successor he helped select.
Kelly’s exit will likely fuel speculation that Nielsen could be the next shake up of top administration official to go. Nielsen has come under fire from Trump over her efforts to enforce immigration laws.
On Friday, it was reported that Kelly didn’t show up for work, but met with the president that evening in the White House residence for a senior staff dinner to lay out his plans for departure. The news of Kelly departure was meant to come out as breaking news on Monday, but Trump announced the news himself on Saturday.
Nick Ayers, a Republican operative who currently serves as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is widely considered the front-runner to replace Kelly as Trump’s top aide. Trump has previously floated Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows as a possible replacements for Kelly, but the White House gave no indication of who might be considered as a replacement.