John Kelly says the White House is "a miserable place to work": report

Several top aides are looking towards the exits as Trump further embraces his executive powers

By Charlie May

Published June 10, 2018 4:39PM (EDT)

John Kelly (AP/Evan Vucci)
John Kelly (AP/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump's White House has resembled a revolving door since he took office, but several more top senior aides are counting the days until they can finally leave.

One of those high-profile officials is White House chief of staff John Kelly, who described the building last week as "a miserable place to work," according to The New York Times. Kelly's deputy, Joe Hagin, is also eager to depart for the CIA as Trump has continued to embolden those that don't challenge him and ostracize those who may. After the midterm elections in November, the turnover rate is expected to turn into something of an "exodus."

Nonetheless, Trump "has grown comfortable with removing any barriers that might challenge him — including, in some cases, people who have the wrong chemistry or too frequently say no to him," the Times reported. Trump has also increasingly sought outside counsel from longtime familiar faces such as his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and confidant David Bossie.

"It seems as though Chief of Staff Kelly is losing power by the day," Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied the historic turnover rate in the Trump administration told the Times. "It’s almost like a battery that’s draining. I’ve not seen any presidency operate effectively without putting somebody in there that you respect and you can trust."

Within his administration the president has relied on fall in line figures such as Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, even as he's taken sharp criticism from both parties and has been engulfed in corruption scandals.

For the most part, however, Trump has grown quite fond of his executive powers — something he precisely and repeatedly criticized his predecessor for.

The Times explained:

The president, whose view of executive power has often crashed into the realities of Washington, is now focused on flexing what muscles he can — including issuing a series of pardons and repeatedly suggesting he has the power to deliver one to himself — and making decisions that do not require him to build coalitions of support. He now dictates to aides what he would like to see happen, as opposed to seeking a range of views, as predecessors may have done, people close to him say.

Trump has also seemed to have grown increasingly paranoid about leaks to the press, and has asked if certain aides are "the leaker" when particular names come up, the Times reported. Decoy tactics are also used as "at least one senior aide is dropping inaccurate stories into the West Wing rumor mill to identify people who speak to reporters."

Kelly, who entered the White House as a military veteran who could help restore order, has seemed to have remained on the outskirts of the Trump administration for months and was described by several West Wing advisers as "beaten down." Kelly traveled with Trump to Singapore ahead of the anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and it's not clear how much time he has left with the administration, but his reported comments about misery in the White House probably didn't make things any better.


Charlie May

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