White House chief of staff John Kelly doesn’t have the best view of President Donald Trump, according to current and former White House officials.
His dislike for Trump is so strong that he even allegedly called him an "idiot."
Eight unnamed sources told NBC News that Kelly sees himself as the country’s savior and that he constantly insults the president’s intelligence.
"He says stuff you can't believe," one senior White House official reportedly said. "He'll say it and you think, 'That is not what you should be saying.'"
During one exchange between Kelly and Trump early in 2018, sources said, Kelly made a strong case to keep U.S. troops in South Korea, changing the president’s mind about ordering the complete withdrawal from the region. To the chief of staff, this proved that he’s the one “saving the country.”
"The strong implication being 'if I weren't here we would've entered WWIII or the president would have been impeached,'" a former White House official told reporters.
But it’s not just in foreign policy matters that Kelly gets involved. When it comes to immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the retired four-star general also sees himself as the one steering the president's hand and keeping him from acting like a fool.
"He doesn't even understand what DACA is. He's an idiot," Kelly allegedly said during a meeting, two officials said. "We've got to save him from himself."
According to the officials, it was Kelly who helped to orchestrate the end of the bipartisan talks revolving around the immigration deal and DACA along with other Republicans. At the time, he reportedly told aides, "If it weren't for me, the president was going to agree to some hasty deal."
Despite what officials said, NBC noted that White House spokespeople told reporters that although Kelly did show signs that he was concerned Trump was going to go soft on immigration, he never called the president an “idiot.”
Still, officials who spoke to NBC News seemed to believe that Kelly could be leaving Trump’s White House by July. Others said that they aren’t sure. Regardless, all of them agreed that the president and Kelly are not getting along.
"Kelly appears to be less engaged, which may be to the president's detriment," a senior White House official said.
Whether or not Kelly has a reason to think that he’s “saving” the country, it appears that if these officials are correct, then his influence over Trump helped to keep the U.S. both more engaged in Korea and less welcoming to immigrants.
While people who are sincere and keep tabs on the president are valuable assets, it’s also disheartening that the people who end up in those positions often push him toward even more radical anti-immigration policies.
Perhaps, what the administration truly needs to save itself isn’t Kelly, but someone who understands that Trump lacks any real policy knowledge and would steer him toward peace and progress.
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