Forceful Chief of Staff Grates on Trump, and the Feeling Is Mutual

By Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, NYT – Sept 1/17

WASHINGTON — President Trump was in an especially ornery mood after staff members gently suggested he refrain from injecting politics into day-to-day issues of governing after last month’s raucous rally in Arizona, and he responded by lashing out at the most senior aide in his presence.

It happened to be his new chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

Mr. Kelly, the former Marine general brought in five weeks ago as the successor to Reince Priebus, reacted calmly, but he later told other White House staff members that he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of serving his country. In the future, he said, he would not abide such treatment, according to three people familiar with the exchange.

While Mr. Kelly has quickly brought some order to a disorganized and demoralized staff, he is fully aware of the president’s volcanic resentment about being managed, according to a dozen people close to Mr. Trump, and has treaded gingerly through the minefield of Mr. Trump’s psyche. But the president has still bridled at what he perceives as being told what to do.

Like every other new sheriff in town Mr. Trump has hired to turn things around at the White House or in his presidential campaign, Mr. Kelly has gradually diminished in his appeal to his restless boss. What is different this time is that Mr. Trump, mired in self-destructive controversies and record-low approval ratings, (that’s propaganda) needs Mr. Kelly more than Mr. Kelly needs him. Unlike many of the men and women eager to work for Mr. Trump over the years, the new chief of staff signed on reluctantly, more out of a sense of duty than a need for affirmation, personal enrichment or fame.

“It is inevitable that a guy who will not be contained and does not want to be handled or managed was going to rebel against the latest manager who wanted to control him,” said Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser, who believes Mr. Kelly represents a kind of management coup by “the triumvirate” of two powerful retired generals — Mr. Kelly and Jim Mattis, the defense secretary — and one general who is still in the Army, the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster.

“Ultimately Donald Trump is his own man, and he’s going to resist all the control and regimented systems Kelly is trying to impose,” Mr. Stone said.

For the seven months of the Trump administration, the favorite parlor game in the West Wing has been guessing how long imperiled aides like Mr. Priebus would hang on before getting fired. But these days it is Mr. Kelly’s state of mind, not Mr. Trump’s, that concerns the beleaguered aides buoyed by the new chief’s imposition of structure and clear lines of authority.

The question now is how long Mr. Kelly will stay, with estimates ranging from a month to a year at the most. White House officials say that Mr. Kelly has given no indication he intends to leave anytime soon. He has thrown himself into long-term planning of the administration’s tax reform push, the president’s Asia trip in November and scheduling for the next several months, they said. Mr. Kelly declined through a White House spokeswoman to comment for this article.

For Mr. Trump, few ingredients matter more in a staff relationship than chemistry, and at times he and Mr. Kelly — whose soldierly demeanor masks a slashing sense of humor — have enjoyed a mostly easy rapport. At commencement ceremonies at the Coast Guard Academy in May, Mr. Kelly elicited a big laugh from the president after Mr. Trump was presented with a ceremonial sword and Mr. Kelly told him that “you can use that on the press.”

Mr. Trump, who has said he has surrounded himself with former military men from “central casting,” respects Mr. Kelly, aides said.

On Friday morning, in the midst of a series of tweets heralding the recovery from Hurricane Harvey, listing the great things coming from his administration and taking another jab at James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, the president restated his public admiration for his chief of staff.

Long-serving advisers and friends remember when Mr. Trump also embraced the tighter controls imposed by Paul Manafort when he was brought on as the campaign chairman in the middle of 2016. Then they saw Mr. Trump quickly turn on him.

But in his short time at the White House, Mr. Kelly, a 67-year-old native of Boston, has had the most significant impact of any of the campaign or White House aides who have worked for Mr. Trump, according to interviews with a dozen current and former Trump aides and associates. He has regimented, as no one has ever done before, the flow of paper, people and information inundating an omnivorous and undisciplined Mr. Trump.

The president, for his part, has marveled at the installation of management controls that would have been considered routine in any other White House.

Mr. Kelly cannot stop Mr. Trump from binge-watching Fox News, which aides describe as the president’s primary source of information gathering. But Mr. Trump does not have a web browser on his phone, and does not use a laptop, so he was dependent on aides like Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, to hand-deliver printouts of articles from conservative media outlets.

Now Mr. Kelly has thinned out his package of printouts so much that Mr. Trump plaintively asked a friend recently where The Daily Caller and Breitbart were.

Mr. Kelly has told his staff, time and time again, that his goal is to rationalize the chaos that has engulfed the management of the West Wing. Managing Mr. Trump is beyond his — or anyone else’s — powers, he has said repeatedly.

While Mr. Trump still reaches out to allies outside the administration — especially old friends and associates like Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager; Richard LeFrak, a fellow developer originally from Queens; Mr. Bannon and a handful of others — more often than not it has been through the White House switchboard and not on his personal phone. And Mr. Kelly has usually listened in on the calls, according to two people with direct knowledge.

Even Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, who has unfettered access to her father, has made a point of giving Mr. Kelly a heads-up if she is going to talk to the president about policy or politics, according to one of Ms. Trump’s friends.

Mr. Kelly has his critics outside the administration, notably Mr. Stone, who has accused Mr. Kelly of keeping the president from his friends and allies. He also has critics inside the White House, who have begun to complain that their access to Mr. Kelly has been limited. But Mr. Kelly’s biggest accomplishments are ones that people outside the West Wing cannot see.

When North Korea fired a missile over northern Japan last week, for example, he counseled Mr. Trump to deliver a stern rebuke he had written himself through a strong, measured — and spell-checked — statement delivered via official White House email, rather than a bombastic Twitter message.

Mr. Kelly is close to Mr. Mattis and supported the Pentagon’s decision to slow-walk Mr. Trump’s order to ban transgender troops from serving in the military, opting for the creation of a panel to study the matter before implementing a policy that is highly popular with the president’s conservative base.

Despite his crackdown on illegal immigrants and support for the Muslim travel ban in his previous job as Homeland Security secretary, Mr. Kelly has been among those calling for Mr. Trump to proceed with caution on rolling back Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era policy protecting from deportation immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors.

And he has moved swiftly to dispatch aides he deems unqualified by temperament, experience or credential with a minimum of drama and fuss. Mr. Kelly, people close to the president said, backed the removals of Mr. Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, a flame-throwing White House staff member known more for his cable TV tirades than strategic acumen, and Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived communications director who self-immolated in an expletive-filled interview with The New Yorker in July.

The chief of staff keeps his own counsel and travels light. He brought over only a small handful of staff members from the Department of Homeland Security, and confides to an even smaller circle, which includes Leon E. Panetta, for whom he served as a top aide when Mr. Panetta was defense secretary in the Obama administration.

But how long Mr. Kelly and the president, two men with such divergent approaches to the common goal of Mr. Trump’s success, will be able to coexist is unclear.

Mr. Kelly has not been talking about it, apart from saying he is committed to stabilizing the staff in the White House.

But one associate who spoke to Mr. Kelly last month said the former commander had remarked that his current assignment was by far the hardest job he had ever had. His favorite gig, he jokes, was his first: Marine grunt.

September 2, 2017 | 6 Comments » | 911 views

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6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. Kelly a greater liability than an asset….. He is the third leg of the military Triumvirate whose ultimate goal is insuring the cabal that controls both political parties remains in control. Control being a divided America preferably 50-50 and seeing an Islamic takeover of the world.. Perpetual war and the ultimate security state where citizens willingly give up freedom and rights for personal security… The cabal retains all the real power and military industrial complex thrives. To that end Iran will be encouraged to extend their hegemony over the whole ME under their own Nuclear umbrella…. Israel in their vile plans is meant to be destroyed and they believe America the most powerful nation , economy and military can take out Iran if and when they have served their purpose or become a threat to America…. Very cynical but that’s how it looks when you connect all the dots. Trump is nothing but a stooge an empty vessel in their control and all of his actions and decision reflect that control…. Buchanan and Trump espoused the same policies and there is nothing unique or original in his campaign promises few of which will see the light of day.

  2. The elito-kleptocracy at war with the American people? Through globalization they will considerably increase their power.

  3. @ yamit82:
    Hi, Yamit.

    The link is verbose. I can’t make heads or tails of it. If you could give me a brief summary, it might help. Meanwhile, I am currently comfortable in the line in the OP,

    ““Ultimately Donald Trump is his own man, and he’s going to resist all the control and regimented systems Kelly is trying to impose,” Mr. Stone said”

    That’s the drift I get from reading Breitbart, which seems to be a reliable source on the latest palace intrigues.

    Regardless of who or what is behind the presumed goings-on in the White House, we still have to reckon with,

    “What, effectively, can we DO about any of this to improve the situation?”

    1. Pray. The Bible says, “The heart of the king is in the hand of the LORD, and He turns it whithersoever He wants.

    While praying, it’s important to try to find out God’s overall will, so we don’t find ourselves at cross-purposes with Him. Concerning this,

    2. God commands us to pray for our leaders; because their welfare is our welfare. I therefore pray for the President, his wife and family and those around him. I pray for their health, and that they might make decisions that benefit God’s people and advance His purpose.

    It’s good to KNOW what God plans to do. One thing is for sure: He wants the whole world to know Him, and to acknowledge Him as the Lord.

    I think that covers most of what we need to DO. Once we get the bulldozer (God) moving with prayer, it’s a waste of time to try to improve on this with picks and shovels. There is a time for each; but for these big problems, we need the bulldozer.

    One thing the Breitbart article

    led me to believe, is that Kelly largely controls the running of the office; he does not control Trump. I used to work in an office, and had people above me. They controlled things such as giving me proiorities of what to focus on; and I focused on them. When I went home, though, I was still me: I had my own convictions, and made major decisions in my life based on them. As it turned out, the job only lasted two years; but I have lasted 69. Which is more important?

    Our president is POTUS, 24 hours a day; and he is wasting his time if he thinks he can or should micromanage the comings and goings in the West Wing. What are REALLY important are his core values. These will determine the course of the country and the world, not the other things.

  4. Michael S Said:

    Our president is POTUS, 24 hours a day; and he is wasting his time if he thinks he can or should micromanage the comings and goings in the West Wing. What are REALLY important are his core values. These will determine the course of the country and the world, not the other things.

    Trump amd core values is an oxymoron…. His values are making money and protecting his family…. I do think he cares about his country but he is to be judged by his deeds not his words…..So far on big items he is following closely Obama’s agenda. He has abandoned any references or policies to reduce the size of government the national debt that will hit at least 21 Trillion in 2018… His proposed tax reform favors the most wealthy, he has not only not decreased importing cheap labor but increased it over what Obama allowed. He has not drained the swamp but added to it and allowed Obama and Clinton holdovers to remain in positions of authority 8 months into his presidency. He has appointed globalist Obama people to his Sec of Defense Mattis (an idiot and Jew hater) Tillerson who is loyal to Exon and is pro Arab and also a Jew hater. He has appointed his National security advisor McMaster a pro Arab Jew hater, who answers to Obama, and Soros directly & who has purged all Trump loyalists in favor of Obama and Clinton supporters and lastly this week appointed an Obama past appointee as his chief of staff. Trump has over 1000 appointments he has yet to even nominate in the executive branch. Sessions instead of going after leakers Obama appointees and the FBI’s scandalous behavior from the Obama admin and the NSA spying on millions of Americans he is going after users of pot for medicinal purposes….The DOJ swamp is still intact under Sessions and doing nothing to correct omissions of previous admin in going after Comey, Clinton and Obama for obvious crimes and violations of law. He has done a 180 on promises to move embassy to Jerusalem, build a southern border wall. Tax reform and tax cuts for middle class, kill Nafta and other trade agreements name China as a currency manipulator and thief of American corporate intellectual property… Prevent NoKo from weaponizing their nukes, leave the Iranian deal pulling out of Afghanistan and not involving America in foreign military adventures and Kill DACA. He promise to repeal and replace Obama care. So far he has not had a major piece of legislation passed 8 months into his presidency and next year is an election year and doubtful what is not passed this year won’t next year. He is obsessed with making peace between Israel and Palis like who really cares or needs his interference now… Problem is Iran not the Palis….. He issued a directive to the military to cease accepting transgenders and to remove those now serving Mattis relied he will think about complying in so many words meaning he won’t comply. Tillerson and McMaster contradict and engage in policies contra to the agenda Trump was elected on…… Trump never gets in the weeds of any issue he has advocated and is too lazy to learn, He does not know how to use a computer and has no internet on his smart phone he depends it’s reported on watching TV and cable news and public interest shows….. Roger stone is not an objective source to totally rely on for insight…… I don’t care about Trump I voted for his agenda and because he wasn’t Hitlery …. I continue to support his as long as he succeeds in implementing the agenda we voted for but if he continues to do 180’s he will lose not only my support but most of his base and will lose majority in congress and be impeached for certain….

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