Breaking: Trump names John Kelly to replace Reince Priebus as chief of staff; Update: Resigned yesterday; Update: Trump wanted Reince to hit back?
The NYT felt the tremors last night…
That kind of competition has exhausted even some of Mr. Trump’s most loyal defenders. But Mr. Trump has openly told people that he has lost faith in Mr. Priebus. He has said he wants “a general” as chief of staff, and has focused on John F. Kelly, the retired four-star Marine now serving as homeland security secretary. Many of his advisers, however, consider that a bad idea.
And now here’s the earthquake:
The news is just breaking as I write this so it’s not clear yet whether Priebus followed Spicer’s lead by quitting or whether Trump finally manned up and fired an employee he’d come to disdain. Kelly seems like an odd choice for COS in that he has no legislative experience; ideally you’d want someone with a big congressional Rolodex as chief, leveraging his relationships in the House and Senate to move the president’s agenda. Kelly has had some contact with Congress, though, in his time in the military and at DHS. And what Trump needs above anything right now is a good manager who’ll impose order on an unruly administration. Kelly commands respect. If that can quiet the leakers, convince Scaramucci to shut his mouth, and get Trump to be more disciplined day to day, he’s a genius pick.
More likely, though, he’ll get swallowed up by the chaos and will be looking to retire within a month.
Updates are coming as the fallout begins. One thought while we wait: Now that there’s a vacancy at DHS, is Trump thinking of moving Jeff Sessions over to replace Kelly? That would solve his political dilemma, clearing the way for a new AG who can oversee Mueller’s Russiagate probe while pleasing populists who don’t want to see Sessions fired and would relish having a stalwart border hawk in charge of Homeland Security.
Update: Good question from Ed.
Update: BuzzFeed also felt the tremors yesterday:
Privately, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, has told people that Priebus is “gone” and that he is trying to figure out his next steps, a source with knowledge said. Her message is that White House staffers who came from the Republican National Committee, which Priebus ran before being named chief of staff, are out, and that the administration is “going back to Trump loyalists.”
I don’t know. If it was all about bringing in loyalists, Corey Lewandowski or David Bossie would be the new chief of staff — or Anthony Scaramucci himself would. Kelly is a “loyalist” insofar as he works for Trump already but he’s no crony. I wonder if Mooch, hoping/expecting that he’d succeed his nemesis Priebus, is angry that now he’ll be answering to a general.
Presumably he’s happy enough that Reince is gone. I assume Priebus was fired rather than quit: If he was going to resign, he would have gone last week with Spicer. Although maybe Scaramucci’s paranoid, profane New Yorker interview attacking Priebus, which Trump not only hasn’t denounced but which he reportedly “loved,” was the final straw. Even Reince has some dignity left. A little. Theoretically.
Update: The president bids his long-suffering first COS farewell:
Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions, now Priebus: All of the key Trump enablers from last year’s primaries have received humiliation as their thanks.
Update: This is a good sign, but also evidence of Trump’s chaotic approach to government in its own way:
Bringing Kelly in as a calming presence makes all the sense in the world. Bringing him in a week after vendetta-minded grandstander Anthony Scaramucci moved into the West Wing makes no sense whatsoever.
Update: I’m going to assume this is true, as Trump probably wouldn’t allow Reince the face-saving dignity of a bogus resignation if he was actually fired:
Presumably the Scaramucci interview was the last straw. Maybe Reince gave it the ol’ college try for a week to see if he could coexist with Mooch. Nope.
Update: A question that was circulating online last night: If Scaramucci really did intend his tirade against Priebus and Bannon to be off-the-record when he spoke to the New Yorker, doesn’t that make him … a leaker?
Update: Reportedly Kelly’s friends warned him beforehand not to take the job. Heh.
Update: Fine-tuned machine:
Update: This is the Trumpiest thing ever. EVER:
Mr. Scaramucci this week gave a profanity-laced interview to the New Yorker magazine in which he disparaged Mr. Priebus and other top staffers. One adviser who has spoken with the president said Mr. Trump was dismissive of Mr. Priebus for not returning fire.
Only Trump would react to Scaramucci’s screeching dirtbag interview by attacking Priebus for not being as willing to denigrate White House decorum. This guy is an emperor encouraging his staff to battle like gladiators for his amusement.
He’d better be careful. Reince may yet have his revenge.
Update: There is, as they say, an old Trump tweet for every occasion: