Back in March we reported that President Trump had considered serving as his own chief of staff so he could have “unfettered access to outsiders and fewer roadblocks to decision making.” Now Â The New York Times has reported that White House chief of staff John Kelly is burned out by his job and is questioning how long he can remain in the pressure-packed west wing post.
According to the Times, Kelly made some off the cuff remarks to a group of senators last week, telling them that “the White House is a miserable place to work.” The article also said that other members of the White House staff are mocking Kelly’s new deputy chief of staff, Zachary Fuentes, and have started calling him the “deputy president” because he has taken over many of Kelly’s normal chief of staff duties.
Rumors of possible turnover in his administration reportedly does not bother President Trump at all. He has proven many times that he is perfectly comfortable firing staff members who challenge him or who he doesn’t like.
Kelly, a retired Marine general, became the White House chief of staff last year, replacing Reince Priebus who had previously been chairman of the Republican National Committee. Â Kelly was supposed to bring order and calm to a west wing operation that had been described as chaotic and even nonfunctional.
It is well known that Kelly has lost most of his influence over Trump although he has partially succeeded in limiting and controlling access to the president. In March he had lost his temper due to frustrations with Trump and had threatened to quit, thinking this would give him more leverage and make the president more likely to follow administration protocols and Kelly’s guidelines.
However, in the March PoliticusUSA article we made clear that threatening to quit would not give Kelly any leverage because Trump may welcome the move:
“In the midst of a Cabinet shake-up and a possible staff upheaval, President Donald Trump considered firing his chief of staff this month and not naming a successor, according to three people familiar with the discussions. Trump has mused to close associates about running the West Wing as he did his business empire, essentially serving as his own chief of staff.”
Given the increasingly erratic behavior by President Trump there are many people inside and outside of the government who hope Kelly will stay in his current position. Â There has already been historically high turnover in Trump’s administration, and when other highly respected people have left they have been replaced by people who tend to do whatever Trump wants them to do without question. Â Kelly is one of the last remaining checks on Trump’s behavior so it would be better for everybody if he didn’t quit.
There have been rumors of Trump firing Kelly for months. Trump would rather have no one tell him what to do or restrict who he sees or who talks to. Instead of firing him, though, it appears that Trump is trying to provoke Kelly to the point where he quits on his own.
Kelly is with Trump in Singapore for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and hopefully will add a dose of sanity and reality to what could be a volatile situation.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.