Former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus became the latest casualty of President Donald Trump’s frenzied administration after newly appointed White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci called him a leaker in profanity-ridden interview, leading the commander-in-chief to fire Priebus as his chief-of-staff.
Trump then tapped Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to serve the coveted position.
I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017
...and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017
A little over six months in to his young presidency, Trump’s White House has been riddled with reports of infighting and controversies. Being the chief of staff to a man with no political or military experience, not to mention someone who is known to make abrupt moves without informing his staff, the retired four-star Marine general will have a lot on his plate.
However, given that Kelly already held a key position within the administration, one might wonder what exactly made Trump choose Kelly to fill in Priebus’ post.
One of the main reasons behind this appointment could be the fact that Kelly, one of the nation's longest-serving commanders, appears to share views with Trump on a number of core issues.
During his first appearance before Congress as homeland security secretary, the 67-year-old called Trump's overwhelmingly unpopular executive order on immigration from seven countries “lawful and constitutional.” However, he did say he should have delayed the order's rollout “just a bit” so that Congress was not essentially blindsided.
“The thinking was to get it out quick so that potentially people that might be coming here to harm us would not take advantage of some period of time that they could jump on an airplane and get here,” Kelly said at the time.
He also justified the ban in a rather insidious way.
“Let’s just say, for instance, a person who is trying to get to the United States to do some harm, some terrorist attack, is coming in during this period that the courts put a stay on our enforcement, we don’t know that until an individual who’s a bad person, until they do something bad,” he said. “But it’s entirely possible that someone that’s coming in, whether it’s during this stay court action or previous to this, they intend to do us harm.”
After British authorities briefly suspended intelligence sharing with the U.S. following the massive leak about Manchester bombing, where a 22-year-old British Muslim detonated a homemade bomb at the exit of Ariana Grande’s concert, Kelly denounced the leaks by dubbing them treasonous.
“If [the leak] came from the United States, it’s totally unacceptable," Kelly told host NBC Chuck Todd during an interview, mirroring Trump’s stance on the matter. “And I don’t know why people do these kinds of things, but it's borderline, if not over the line, of treason … I think it’s darn close to treason.”
After White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, came under fire for his alleged post-election meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, where he and former national security adviser Michael Flynn reportedly discussed setting up a secret backchannel between the U.S. and the Kremlin, Kelly came to his defense.
“I know Jared. He's a great guy, decent guy,” he opined. “His number one, number one interest, really, is the nation. So you know there's a lot of different ways to communicate, back-channel, publicly with other countries. I don't see any big issue here relative to Jared.”
When asked why Kushner would want a backchannel “with an adversary,” Kelly responded:
“I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they're good friends or not so good friends, it's a smart thing to do.”
Perhaps Kelly, being a retired Marine, will bring some discipline to Trump’s chaotic White House. However, given how Trump doesn’t really seem the kind to let others influence him, it’d be interesting to see how this relationship works out for both of them.