Yet the two also remain close in many ways, making the up-and-down dynamics a guessing game for those who work with them. While the two men fight and swear at each other at times, Kelly sees Trump more than anyone else, and confidants say the volatility in their relationship is natural. Trump has often interrupted meetings to ask Kelly’s opinion and has told others he respects the former Marine general’s time in the military and his stature, according to White House officials and people who know them.
“Is that right?” Trump asked Kelly a number of times during a recent meeting, seeking his perspective as they met with Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho), according to people with knowledge of the meeting.
Trump critics have questioned whether Kelly’s style of managing the president is always best. While he has sometimes kept bad information from getting to the president, he has also intervened to block bipartisan deals that Trump wanted to strike on immigration and reinforced some of the president’s most contentious positions. Several of Trump’s most controversial and racially incendiary moments — such as his remarks last summer after riots in Charlottesville and his recent disparaging comments about African nations — also came as Kelly looked on.