Donald Trump; John Kelly (AP/Photo Montage by Salon)

More than "dumb luck": John Kelly reportedly "ignores" Trump's attempt to fire him

"Normally if the president wanted to fire somebody, he would call Kelly to do it. But there's nobody else to call"


Shira Tarlo
October 11, 2018 3:35PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump's chief of staff John Kelly remains in the White House because of "dumb luck," according to a report published Wednesday in New York Magazine.

The piece, titled "My Private Oval Office Press Conference With Donald Trump, Mike Pence, John Kelly, and Mike Pompeo," details Trump's bizarre attempt to convince the magazine's Washington Correspondent, Olivia Nuzzi, that he has a good relationship with Kelly.

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"The chief is doing a very good job," Trump told Nuzzi. "I'm very happy with him, we have a very good relationship, number one. Number two, I didn't offer anybody else the job. I didn't talk to anybody about the job ... I'm not looking."

Throughout Nuzzi's sit-down interview with the president, she wrote that Pence, Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, press secretary Sarah Sanders and Nick Ayers, vice president Mike Pence's chief of staff, all came into the room — a moment, she wrote, felt like "the reunion episode of a sitcom, in which Bob Saget might come out next to an applause track." Nuzzi wrote that she didn't know if all the president's aides had been told she would be sitting down with Trump. She was at the White House on Wednesday pursuing a lead that Trump had offered the chief of staff position to Ayers.

"I didn't offer Nick the job," Trump told her. "I mean, I'm telling you in front. Now, you can write that I did. But now, you have him, you have me, and I didn't offer him a job and he didn't accept a job. And there was no offer."

"Now, look, with time, do people leave?" he added, referring to Nikki Haley, who announced on Tuesday that she is resigning as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during a televised Oval Office meeting with Trump.

Nuzzi reports that West Wing staff believe that Kelly remains in the White House because Trump "just doesn't know who to call to fire him."

"When the president says, I need you to leave, Kelly just ignores him," an unnamed administration official told Nuzzi. "I think the president just doesn't know who to call to fire him. Normally if the president wanted to fire somebody, he would call Kelly to do it. But there's nobody else to call."

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She asked Kelly for his response to reports that he and the president have a tenuous relationship.

"He's a great president," Kelly replied. "Do we disagree sometimes? We do. My job is to make sure that that man has all of the information available from whatever source so that he makes the best decision, and then, when that decision is made, my job is to then implement that decision."

"There is, to the best of my knowledge, no chaos in this building," Kelly continued. "We've gotten rid of a few bad actors, but everyone works very, very well together."

In his recent tell-all book "Fear" about the Trump White House, veteran journalist Bob Woodward reported that Kelly has made it clear that he hates his job working for Trump and views the president as unfit. According to Woodward, Kelly once called working as Trump's chief of staff "the worst job I've ever had" and called the president an "idiot." Kelly has denied the accounts.

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In June, the New York Times reported that Kelly described the White House as a "miserable place to work."  Multiple outlets have reported that Kelly is mulling an exit, with some outlets reporting that he was expected to leave his post by the end of the summer.

Throughout Nuzzi's interview, Trump kept going off on long tangents about his administration's accomplishments, at one point directing a White House secretary to bring in two sheets of computer paper with a list of the White House's successes.

Nuzzi describes the pages as being, "stamped with 58 bullet points, typed in large font. At the top, underlined, bold, and all-caps, it read, 'TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ACCOMPLISHMENTS.' On the second page, there were more puzzling accomplishments like, 'Republicans want STRONG BORDERS and NO CRIME. Democrats want OPEN BORDERS which equals MASSIVE CRIME.'"

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"These are just some of the things that were done since taking office," Trump told Nuzzi.


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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