I’ll take this opportunity to say that I strongly prefer Corey Lewandowski as Kelly’s successor or, if he’s not available, Chris Christie. At some point in this presidency POTUS is going to go “full Trump” by staffing up with all of the top cronies from his early campaign days. It’s a matter of time. So let’s get on with it. Let’s see what the Trump White House looks like when the circus is going full tilt.
Send in the clowns.
Worth noting here: Although the claim that Trump offered John Kelly’s job to Gary Cohn is disputed, Gabriel Sherman claims no fewer than three sources who say it happened.
With the Rob Porter scandal into its eighth day and showing few signs of abating, Donald Trump is seriously mulling replacing his chief of staff, John Kelly, three sources close to the White House said. In recent days, Trump has floated names like White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and longtime friend Tom Barrack, a real-estate developer…
Last night, for instance, three Republicans told me that Trump had offered the job to Gary Cohn. But in a conversation with Sean Hannity yesterday, Trump said he had not chosen Cohn, a person close to Hannity told me. Another source said Republicans have warned Trump that choosing Cohn, a New York Democrat, would cause a backlash in the party…
Hannity is part of a faction pushing Wayne Berman, a senior adviser to private-equity giant Blackstone. They argue Berman has deep ties to Republicans on Capitol Hill. “You appoint Wayne and immediately relations with Mitch McConnell thaw,” one person in Berman’s camp told me. People close to Steve Bannon have been advocating for House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows.
Other candidates being considered reportedly include lobbyist David Urban, who’s been talked about as a potential COS since last year, and Kevin McCarthy, who gets along well with Trump. McCarthy’s supposedly worried that if the party gets wiped out in the midterms, he’ll be blamed if he’s Trump’s chief. I think that’s overblown; most observers expect major Democratic gains given Trump’s unpopularity and the tradition of the out-party doing well in midterms.
McCarthy also wants to be Speaker, though, which is a more serious concern. As House majority leader he’d be next in line if Ryan retires this fall, as some expect him to do. And with Republican polling on the generic ballot improving lately, it’s possible that the GOP will still hold the House next year (although almost certainly with a reduced majority), making his Speakership possible. Trump may even prefer to have an ally like McCarthy in charge of the House instead of as chief of staff. It would make it that much easier for him to impose his policy preferences on Congress with McCarthy in a key role to carry water for him.
What about Gary Cohn, though? Cohn was Steve Bannon’s arch-nemesis in the White House, a “globalist” financier who would undoubtedly steer Trump towards the center. His appointment as chief would represent Javanka’s ultimate victory over Bannon. And from Trump’s perspective, with Congress sure to be bluer next year irrespective of which party controls each chamber, a Democratic chief of staff might not be a bad thing. If you’re hoping to compromise with Speaker Pelosi or Majority Leader Schumer on things like infrastructure and immigration, a centrist as your right-hand man makes sense.
But because of that, Bannonites will freak and treat Cohn’s appointment as the ultimate betrayal. If Trump’s going to appoint Cohn, he needs to figure out if he thinks he’d pick up more voters in the middle by making the appointment than he’d lose on the nationalist right. In theory, *if* Cohn helps broker some major legislative compromises, maybe it’s worth it. But if Dems decide they won’t agree to anything until 2019 at the earliest for fear of inadvertently boosting Trump’s popularity before the midterms (and they will decide that), then what’s the point? No need to appoint Cohn now knowing that Trump’s likely to cycle through a new chief of staff every six months for the duration of his presidency. Cohn’s time will come next year, or the year after. Whenever.
One other factor if he appoints Cohn: Er, Cohn reportedly very nearly quit the White House over Trump’s Charlottesville comments. Trump reportedly gave him the silent treatment, even to the point of averting his gaze, afterwards. That sounds like a healthy dynamic for the White House inner circle, no? A situation in which the president’s apt to say something at any moment that might cause his chief to quit in outrage seems smart and highly stable.
In the end, does it matter who replaces Kelly? It’ll be a sh*tshow no matter who’s running it. If POTUS has a guy in Kelly who’s willing to take the job, says Matt Lewis, why not let him keep it?
If we were to judge Kelly based on the criteria of having demonstrated competence and a strong character, this mounting evidence should, in a normal world, justify firing Kelly. But this isn’t a normal world. The truth is that Kelly is probably as good as it gets…
The idea that anyone could reign in Trump more than Kelly has seems like wishful thinking. If a Marine general can’t do this job, good luck finding someone who can.
Donald Trump leaves a trail of professional corpses in his wake. Whether Kelly was changed or the real Kelly was simply revealed by virtue of being placed in this role, Kelly’s reputation has been irreparably diminished by virtue of attempting to serve this president.
Turning a blind eye to bad behavior is practically part of the job description in agreeing to work for Trump. Kelly’s supposed to be ousted because he applied the same logic to Rob Porter? C’mon.
Here’s POTUS this afternoon, with the media barking Porter-related questions at him, reassuring them that he abhors domestic violence.
WATCH: President Trump: "I am totally opposed to domestic violence. And everybody here knows that. I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that. And it almost wouldn't even have to be said, so now you hear it, but you all know it." pic.twitter.com/8pECavsbyZ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 14, 2018