John Kelly’s glory days in the White House are long over, and many believe that his days are numbered period. “Everybody in the orbit of Donald Trump gets sucked in and tarnished or destroyed,” said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff. “Kelly has been tarnished, no doubt about it.” Talk of Kelly leaving or of Trump firing him flares up on a regular basis, which is de rigueur for this unstable administration, and with the recent hiring of John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser and Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as Senior Economic Adviser, the West Wing is a tinder box and breaths are being held wondering how long before Trump loses it entirely. Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair:
Already, there have been flash points, conflicts beneath the level of Trump’s attention. According to sources, Bolton told Kelly he wanted to replace N.S.C. spokesman Michael Anton, but Kelly resisted. Bolton overruled him. “Bolton said to Kelly, ‘The president told me to get rid of anyone he thinks is a leaker. If you’re going to stop this then you’ll own every leak coming out of the N.S.C.,’” a person briefed on the conversation said.
Kelly also resisted Bolton’s request to remove N.S.C. official Ylli Bajraktari, who had worked as an assistant to the deputy secretary of defense during the Obama administration and was close to H.R. McMaster. Conservatives have accused Bajraktari of leaking the story that Trump ignored instructions not to congratulate Vladimir Putin on winning his election. (A source familiar with the discussions said Bolton was not responsible for Anton and Bajraktari’s departures, and that the two, as McMaster allies, had been planning to leave. The source added that they were not leakers. “It’s just not true,” the source said.) […]
Kudlow has also tangled with Kelly. Recently, according to sources, Kudlow told press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he would like his own press person. Sanders explained that the press office could handle his media and that he didn’t need a dedicated person. “Larry was like, I’m not asking for permission,” a person briefed on the conversation said. When Kelly found out about Kudlow’s request, he blocked it. Kudlow, according to sources, didn’t force the issue with Kelly. But he wasn’t happy about it. “Larry was like, what the fuck does this guy know about the economy?” a person who spoke with him said.
When Kelly came into the West Wing he immediately put strictures on who had access to Trump. From a situation where staffers used to stroll casually into the Oval Office still talking on their cell phones, Kelly implemented order and discipline, scheduling bi monthly cabinet meetings and dictating every piece of paper that Trump would see. All that has been eroded. Kelly is no longer the guard dog that he was hired on to be. Ostensibly Trump has toyed with the idea of dispensing with Kelly’s job altogether, and simply having everybody report to him directly. Nobody is keen to see that chaotic notion implemented.
“He’s sitting there bitching and moaning. He’s brooding and doesn’t have a plan,” a Republican close to the White House said last night. “I could see him having a total meltdown and saying, ‘Fuck it, I’m firing all of them,’” a Trump friend told me. “This is very dry tinder. If someone strikes a match to it you could see it catching fire,” said a former official.
So Bolton purges and Kudlow kvetches while Trump tweets and his staff wonders if and when he’ll go postal; just another day on the job in the new normal of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.