Here we go: The "Trump vs. John Kelly" war of words is finally upon us

Here we go: The "Trump vs. John Kelly" war of words is finally upon us

Didn’t they have a little deal, a mutual nonaggression pact of sorts? I’m thinking back to a CNN story from September:

Kelly assured Trump in one of their final Oval Office meetings that while he did plan to eventually write about his tumultuous tenure in the White House for history’s sake, he wouldn’t publish a book until after Trump was gone, two sources briefed on the conversation said. But the former general’s guarantee came in terms more reminiscent of a military ceasefire than an employee separation agreement: Kelly told Trump he would hold his fire as long as Trump didn’t attack him first.

Has Kelly broken the deal (assuming it exists, of course)? Two weeks ago he said he’d believe John Bolton if in fact Bolton confirmed the report in the Times that Trump had told him personally about a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Then, last night, he sounded off on all sorts of Trump-related current affairs, from Alex Vindman’s reassignment to the failure of diplomacy with North Korea to Trump’s intervention in the Eddie Gallagher case. The Atlantic has the most extensive quotes from the evening. Of note: At no point does Kelly insult Trump personally, such as by calling him unfit, and at no point does he reveal anything that happened behind the scenes during his time as chief of staff. It’s straightforward criticism on the issues:

“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly told the audience [of Vindman reporting Trump’s call with Zelensky] at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”…

“Through the Obama administration up until that phone call, the policy of the U.S. was militarily to support Ukraine in their defensive fight against … the Russians,” Kelly said. “And so, when the president said that continued support would be based on X, that essentially changed. And that’s what that guy [Vindman] was most interested in.”

When Vindman heard the president tell Zelensky he wanted to see the Biden family investigated, that was tantamount to hearing “an illegal order,” Kelly said. “We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.’”

He offered the audience a bunch of other press-friendly soundbites, like the fact that most immigrants are good people and that he doesn’t think the media is the enemy. (He was singing a different tune at times as chief of staff, sniffed Maggie Haberman afterward.) But as I say, as best we can tell, there was no personal disparagement of the president and no blockbuster scoops about what he saw and heard during his time in the White House — much to the annoyance of some anti-Trumpers on social media. Was that a breach of the ceasefire with Trump?

Trump thought so, it seems:

“While I am not hopeful, Trump should respect the view of Kelly on this question and not counterpunch with a personal attack,” wrote Jonathan Turley early this morning, before the president tweeted. “[T]he Vindman question goes to a core principle of military ethics that should not be questioned by the White House.” Oh well.

Go read Patterico for a compilation of presidential tweets lavishly praising Kelly for his service in the White House in the past, further evidence that there was a nonaggression pact between them in deed if not in word. Trump and Kelly famously clashed during Kelly’s time as chief; today’s tweets dumping on him are doubtless closer to Trump’s true opinion than the prior praise was. But Trump is transactional by nature and was willing to flatter Kelly so long as Kelly didn’t make trouble for him. Now he has, and so the deal is broken.

Which leaves Kelly … where? Willing and able to speed up that tell-all after all, possibly with a release date in October? Prepared to do a proper media tour? Inclined to testify before the House?

Someone needs to ask him about this hard-to-believe-but-not-very-hard scoop:

President Donald Trump did not appear to understand the significance of the iconic Pearl Harbor memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii, during a private tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, according to a new book by two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters from the Washington Post…

According to the Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, Trump asked his then-chief of staff, John Kelly, “Hey, John, what’s this all about? What’s this a tour of?”

Nah, c’mon. My question about Kelly is this: Why now? *Is* he looking to cash in somehow on the election? If so, you’d expect we’d have already heard about a book in the works, as we’ve heard with Bolton. If he was looking to damage Trump just for the sake of damaging him, either because there’s a grudge or because he’s convinced it’d be good for the country for Trump to lose in November, doing these speaking events at which he dribbles out little bon mots about how the press isn’t evil isn’t the obvious way to do it. TV interviews are, but he hasn’t done those. What’s his game?

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