In the first few weeks of Trump’s presidency, many speculated that Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart chief, was the one calling the shots in the White House. With headlines shouting that Bannon is the power behind the throne, Trump started to get annoyed. President Steve Bannon is starting to get on Donald Trump’s nerves. Trump was particularly perturbed at Saturday Night Live’s portrayal of “President Bannon” and his manipulation of the man-child Trump. Trump eventually fired Bannon because the egomaniacal Twitter-troll-in-chief must always be the center of attention.
History may soon repeat itself. The National Review recently published this article, Being President Kelly. Ruh-roh.
The president of the United States has been in a low-level public pissing match with his chief of staff, Marine general John F. Kelly.
Kelly got Trump’s dander up by referring to recent presidential statements on border security as “not informed,” insisting that Trump is — dreadful Washington phrase! — “evolving” on the issue. And the president is evolving on it, that evolution being made inevitable by the utter preposterousness of his campaign promises. Long gone is his blustery insistence that there will be a wall (not a mere fence) from San Diego to Brownsville and that the government of Mexico will pay for it. Trump now is talking about renovating some fencing, maybe adding a bit, and not bothering Enrique Peña Nieto et al. too much about the bill. That’s an evolution for Trump, who has a pronounced disinclination to pick up the tab for anything.
That the president may be uninformed is a trope of Kelly’s. In addition to describing the president as “not informed” about the subject of his keynote issue, he has described his job as chief of staff as ensuring that the staff “better informs” the president on a range of issues. “If the administration fails, if the president of the United States is uninformed one time and makes the wrong decision, that’s on me,” Kelly told Fox News. Trump, in his usual passive-aggressive way, resorted to sub-tweeting: “The Wall is the Wall,” he wrote with his by now familiar erratic capitalization. “It has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.” Trump later called Kelly in for an Apprentice-style dressing down, according to the New York Times, which also reports that Kelly, who brought some semblance of order to the chaotic Trump administration, repeatedly has threatened to quit unless his orders are followed — including by the president.
Donald Trump runs a Twitter account. President John Kelly is running the administration.
Trump likes to think of himself as an “alpha male,” as a natural-born leader, but he has instinctively adapted himself to the role of second banana in his relationship with Kelly. In all his passive-aggressive subtweeting at his chief of staff — a man who serves solely at his pleasure — Trump never even had the courage to name him.
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President John Kelly serves at the sufferance of tweeter-in-chief Donald Trump, the little pilot fish who has mistaken himself for a great white shark. (Oh, Trump and “Shark Week!”) Let us hope that that symbiotic relationship continues to thrive for as long as the Trump presidency endures.
Gabriel Sherman recently wrote at Vanity Fair, “I’VE GOT ANOTHER NUT JOB HERE WHO THINKS HE’S RUNNING THINGS”: ARE TRUMP AND KELLY HEADING FOR DIVORCE?
Donald Trump’s relationship with John Kelly, his chief of staff, fraught from the beginning, may finally have gone past the point of no return. Two prominent Republicans in frequent contact with the White House told me that Trump has discussed choosing Kelly’s successor in recent days, asking a close friend what he thought about David Urban, a veteran Washington lobbyist and political operative who helped engineer Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania. Ivanka is also playing a central role in the search, quietly field-testing ideas with people. “Ivanka is the most worried about it. She’s trying to figure who replaces Kelly,” a person who’s spoken with her said.
Kelly’s departure likely isn’t imminent, sources said. “He wants to stay longer than Reince [Priebus],” an outside adviser said. Trump can also hardly afford another high-level staff departure, which would trigger days of negative news cycles. “This could be like [Jeff] Sessions,” one of the Republicans explained, referring to Trump’s festering frustration about not being able to replace his attorney general.
Trump’s anger at Kelly’s immigration comments is the latest flare-up in a relationship that has been deteriorating for months.
Trump has increasingly been chafing at the media narrative that he needs Kelly to instill discipline on his freewheeling management style. “The more Kelly plays up that he’s being the adult in the room—that it’s basically combat duty and he’s serving the country—that kind of thing drives Trump nuts,” a Republican close to the White House said. In recent days, Trump has fumed to friends that Kelly acts like he’s running the government while Trump tweets and watches television. “I’ve got another nut job here who thinks he’s running things,” Trump told one friend, according to a Republican briefed on the call. A second source confirmed that Trump has vented about Kelly, mentioning one call in which Trump said, “This guy thinks he’s running the show.” (A White House official said “it’s categorically false that Trump is unhappy with Kelly. He’s only ever referred to him as the general, tough, can be rough, and commands respect.”)
Kelly, in turn, has expressed frustration with Trump’s freewheeling management style and habit of making offensive statements. In August, when Trump incited outrage with his Charlottesville comments, Kelly complained to a colleague that he was “holding it together.” The next month, cameras captured Kelly’s infamous facepalm at Trump’s U.N. speech when Trump called Kim Jong Un “rocket man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” The New York Times reported that Kelly has threatened to quit numerous times.
FAUX News reported the White House response to the Vanity Fair article, Sarah Sanders Blasts Report of Ivanka Trump Looking for John Kelly’s Replacement. At least until the mercurial Donald Trump becomes angry that Gen. Kelly is portrayed as the adult in the room, the power behind the throne and the actual president, and he is the easily manipulated man-child.