Kelly wasn’t with the president last week when Trump abruptly decided to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser and replace him with John Bolton. Just two people were in the room for that decision: Trump and Bolton.
And Kelly is rarely on the line any more when Trump calls foreign leaders. Last week, when Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin days before the U.S. decided to expel dozens of Russian diplomats, Kelly wasn’t on the call.
The chief of staff’s absence at those two key moments last week highlights his struggles in managing the White House for a president who has a penchant for unpredictability and often follows his own lead when making decisions. Kelly has seen his influence slip since a staffing controversy in February marred his credibility and damaged his image as an internal disciplinarian.