The tenuous relationship between President Donald Trump and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, could be inching ever closer to a dramatic standoff.
The former Marine general has reportedly lessened his role in the West Wing as his alliance with the president has soured, four people close to Kelly have revealed to Politico.
In fact, Kelly allegedly told at least one person close to him that “he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment – at least this chapter of American history would come to a close."
Kelly took over his position from former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in July 2017 and was entrusted with creating order amidst the constant fire and fury burning inside the White House.
At the time, Kelly was seen as the one individual who could act as a parental figure to an executive branch seemingly at war with itself. The general even referred to himself the “adult in the room.”
However, that role deteriorated quickly over the course of the next year, as President Trump’s frustrations boiled over as a result of Kelly’s controversial behavior.
Kelly has been entangled in a number of scandals since he began his role in the White House. Trump's chief of staff has said that undocumented immigrants are “too lazy to get off their asses” and apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
But, Kelly also said some of Trump’s own comments on immigration were “uniformed,” earning a public rebuke from the president.
One of Kelly’s more controversial moments arose when he praised Rob Porter as a “man of true integrity and honor” after the disgraced former White House staff secretary's ex-wives accused him of domestic violence.
It was only after one of an image of her bruised face surfaced that Kelly took a stand against domestic violence, but he still stood by his original comments praising Porter.
After this incident, the New York Times reported that Trump called Priebus to vent his frustrations, although Priebus has denied that conversation ever took place. The move pointed to the revolving door culture of the White House, and the unpredictable nature of who falls in and out of favor with Trump.
Former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, a former superviser to Kelly, told the Times back in February that he was worried about the White House chief of staff.
“Even he has admitted it’s probably the toughest job he’s ever had," Panetta said. "And, I really do think sometimes, particularly with this president, you’re fighting on so many fronts it’s tough not to have that job wear on you.”
Since Trump assumed office, it is clear the president often has had a low tolerance for aides who cause negative media attention, which in turn reflects poorly on his volatile presidency.
According to Politico, Kelly’s Secret Service personnel have apparently been seen standing outside the gym in the Eisenhower Executive Office building in the middle of the day for the past few months, indicating that he has “thrown in the towel” over his duties as chief of staff.