White House Chief of Staff John Kelly threatened to quit on March 28 during the Oval Office meeting that day, and not for the first time, according to Jonathan Swan at Axios:
What I’m hearing: Kelly blew up at Trump in an Oval Office meeting that day, and while walking back to his office muttered he was going to quit. Sources said it was not related to the David Shulkin firing that happened the same day.
A senior administration official said that calling it a threat was “probably too strong, it was more venting frustration.” Kelly often says he doesn’t have to be there and didn’t seek the job originally.
- Kelly packed up some personal belongings, though I’m told that wasn’t necessarily because he was walking out.
- He was fired up enough that colleagues got allies to call in to calm him down.
- At one point DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — perhaps the person in the administration he trusts most — came over to talk him off the ledge.
Context: Kelly has verbally threatened to quit more than once over the past eight months.
These rumblings are nothing new. In October, 2017 discord between Trump and Kelly reached a fever pitch when after only nine weeks on the job Kelly was photographed staring at the floor while Trump rambled on about “both sides” in Charlottesville, and a few days later Kelly’s famous face-palm-at-the-United-Nations photo went viral while Trump impugned “Little Rocket Man.” Kelly survived both those debacles, and assured anyone who would listen how he was doing the most important job of his life and what a wonderful leader Trump was to follow.
John Kelly’s Faustian bargain with Trump was challenged even more severely in January, 2018 when Kelly did the unthinkable, stating during a Fox News interview that Trump wasn’t “fully informed” about his mythical wall, and that his views had “evolved.” Trump himself torpedoed that idea soundly, disabusing one and all of the notion that he could ever evolve, a proposition which made more sense than Trump does usually.
More stringent tests of the viability of the Kelly-Trump relationship were still to come, unbelievably, as the next month, February, 2018 uncovered that both White House Counsel Don McGahn and Kelly were aware of Rob Porter’s domestic problems as far back as November, 2017 and it goes without saying of the implications of those problems, that they rendered Porter vulnerable to blackmail and this was the reason for the delay in his security clearance. This issue, of course, inconveniently dovetailed with the fact that many members of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner most prominently, did not have security clearances either and once again, it was a High Noon moment on Main Street with Trump and Kelly facing off. Somehow Kelly kept his job and Kushner didn’t get his clearance and life went on as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The fall out, of course, was that the Trump administration gave every appearance of being oblivious to, or possibly even tolerant of, domestic violence.
John Kelly has managed to survive it all in Energizer Bunny style. He’s always got a smile and a salute for Trump and so for the moment, as always, discussion of Kelly’s impending departure is probably exaggerated. But bear in mind that in Trump World nothing is unthinkable and the unexpected is always just around the corner, waiting to jump into a headline.
Kelly and Trump are a dysfunctional mutually destructive couple, on the order of the legend of the crow that grabbed a kitten off a barn roof and took it into the sky. The kitten dug his claws into the crow’s underbelly and would not let go. The crow could not let go because the kitten would disembowel him if he did so, and the kitten couldn’t let go and risk the height of the fall. So the two continued, presumably until the weaker or more wounded succumbed and then they both perished.
That’s about the size of it for Trump and Kelly, the first week of April, 2018. Just another Twilight Zone image from the Trump administration.