Mr Trump praised Mr Kelly as a “great, great American” after announcing his appointment as chief of staff. (Reuters: Joshua Roberts)
White House chief of staff John Kelly is calling a report that he called President Donald Trump “an idiot” and cast himself as the saviour of America “total BS”.
- NBC News reported General Kelly cast himself as a saviour protecting America from Trump’s impulses
- The report quotes unnamed current and former White House staff
- General Kelly says he has a “candid and strong” relationship with the President
General Kelly, in a statement, says he and Trump have “an incredibly candid and strong relationship”.
“He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS,” he said.
Quoting numerous current and former White House staff, NBC News reports that General Kelly had criticised Mr Trump’s knowledge on issues like immigration, while casting himself as protecting the country from the President’s impulses.
The report claimed General Kelly referred to Mr Trump as “an idiot” multiple times.
It added that Mr Trump was growing tired of General Kelly’s attitude.
Senior White House spokespeople denied all these claims, saying they had never heard General Kelly refer to Mr Trump or himself in these terms.
General Kelly says NBC’s report is, “another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes”.
In his early days in the White House, General Kelly imposed strict controls on access and the flow of information to Mr Trump, though his direct influence has waned somewhat, aides said.
General Kelly’s allies insist he has merely trained the staff to follow his management protocols, but officials say Mr Trump has grown more willing to act unilaterally, ignoring or simply not seeking out the advice of his top aide.
However, officials told NBC News that General Kelly is undisciplined and indiscreet as chief of staff, despite having a public image as a retired general instilling discipline on a chaotic White House.
“He says stuff you can’t believe. He’ll say it and you think, ‘That’s not what you should be saying’,” one senior official said.
Kelly expected to leave after one year
The last senior White House official to reportedly insult Mr Trump’s intelligence, secretary of state Rex Tillerson, was fired in March, five months after allegedly calling the President a “moron”.
General Kelly is Mr Trump’s second chief of staff after Reince Priebus, who was accused of leaking information to reporters, resigned in July 2017.
In recent months, Mr Trump has chafed at General Kelly’s controlling management style, and has occasionally talked with friends about replacing him.
Some current and former White House officials expect General Kelly to leave this July, NBC News reports.
“Kelly appears to be less engaged, which may be to the President’s detriment,” a senior official said.
General Kelly’s handling of domestic violence accusations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter earlier this year caused consternation among White House staffers, who believed he was not truthful.
General Kelly is a 45-year military veteran and was in charge of Southern Command, responsible for military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, from 2012 until his retirement in January 2016.
Before becoming chief of staff, the 67-year-old four-star Marine Corps general was secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.
In that post, he pursued a more aggressive stance on immigration policy and won Mr Trump’s praise for a drop in the number of migrants crossing the US border with Mexico.
Following his appointment as chief of staff, Mr Trump said: “John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. He’s a great, great American.”