White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Thursday sought to set the record straight on his future as the president’s top aide and the very nature of the job — denying that he is quitting or being fired and challenging the view that his mission is to control President Donald Trump.
“As far as the tweets go, you know, it’s funny, I read in the paper — well, you all know, you write it — that I’ve been a failure at controlling the president, or a failure at controlling his tweeting, and all that,” Kelly told reporters at a White House press briefing.
“Again, I was not sent in — or I was not brought to this job — to control anything but the flow of information to our president so that he can make the best decisions..”
The retired Marine Corps general and former secretary of homeland security began the briefing by addressing the reports that he’s been frustrated in what he admitted was “the hardest job I’ve ever had” but also “the most important job I ever had.”
“Unless things change, I’m not quitting, I’m not getting fired, and I don’t think I’ll fire anyone tomorrow,” Kelly said. “I’m not quitting today. I just talked to the president — I don’t think I’m being fired today. And I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.”
The extraordinary statement drew a bit of laughter, but it reflected serious turmoil in the top ranks of the White House that has persisted since the Donald Trump was inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president.
As the president churned out tweets that have been factually inaccurate and started or continued feuds, many of his original top aides have left or been fired. Gone is Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus; press secretary Sean Spicer, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, to name a few.
Reports have emerged that Kelly is unhappy in the job as Trump’s legislative agenda stalls, as Trump picks fights with NFL players who kneel during the national anthem and as Trump blames Puerto Rico for its ongoing misery after Hurricane Maria,
Kelly’s extraordinary statements are the latest examples of Trump administration officials professing their loyalty publicly Trump, refuting reports that suggest problems in the chaotic administration.
Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly reiterated his support for Trump after reports that he had called the president a “moron.”
Kelly also indirectly addressed those reports Thursday.
“I have found that Mr. Trump, from the day I met him, does not — he’s a decisive guy. He’s a very thoughtful man, I should say. He takes information in from every avenue he can receive it.”
Kelly also addressed some reports that his role as gatekeeper means limiting the voices Trump gets to hear.
“I restrict no one, by the way, from going in to see him. But when we go in to see him now, rather than onesies and twosies, we go in and help him collectively understand what he needs to understand to makes these vital decisions.”
“So again, I was not sent in to — or brought in to — control him, and you should not measure my effectiveness as a chief of staff by what you think I should be doing,” Kelly said. “But simply, the fact is, I can guarantee to you that he is now presented with options, well thought-out options. Those options are discussed in detail with his team, and then he comes up with the right decision. ”
Contributing: Associated Press