WASHINGTON — Embattled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has told senior aides that President Donald Trump asked him to stay in his role through 2020.
Kelly told staffers that he had agreed to stay on, five White House officials said Tuesday. The public show of confidence in Kelly, even if later reversed, appeared aimed at tamping down speculation about staff turnover, as well as projecting calm as the president gears up for his re-election campaign.
The officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Kelly hit the one-year mark as Trump’s chief of staff Monday. Speculation about his exit has flared for months, amid reports that Trump had cooled on the retired four-star general. Kelly is credited with bringing order to the West Wing but also grates on the freewheeling president.
Still, Trump is known as a mercurial boss, whose feelings on key staffers can shift rapidly. Trump on Monday tweeted congratulations to Kelly on reaching the one-year milestone.
“Congratulations to General John Kelly. Today we celebrate his first full year as @WhiteHouse Chief of Staff!” Trump wrote.
Speculation about Kelly’s exit hit a fever pitch about a month ago, with Trump openly weighing possible replacements. At the time, Kelly made clear to confidants that he had no plans to leave, though he had also told people close to him that he’d be happy if he made it to the one-year mark.
Kelly has often joked publicly about how working for Trump is the hardest job he’s ever had, including those on the battlefield.
Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with news reports about staff turnover and discord, often dubbing it “fake news,” though there has a historic level of turnover during his first two years in office. The White House has struggle to recruit top talent across the administration to replace departing staffers.