John Kelly Is Again the Target of Character Assassination and Just How Much More Can He Take?

If NBC is to be believed, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly holds Trump in deep and abiding contempt and he’s a misogynist with a Messiah complex.

White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials.

The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments.

“He says stuff you can’t believe,” said one senior White House official. “He’ll say it and you think, ‘That is not what you should be saying.'”

Current and former White House officials said Kelly has at times made remarks that have rattled female staffers. Kelly has told aides multiple times that women are more emotional than men, including at least once in front of the president, four current and former officials said.

“The strong implication being ‘if I weren’t here we would’ve entered WWIII or the president would have been impeached,'” one former senior White House official said.


Kelly has issued an official response.

A few thoughts on this.

A chief of staff’s power and authority are totally the reflected power and authority of his boss. It the two are in sync, a chief has clout. If not, well, not so much. Trump and Kelly don’t seem to have the best chemistry, they certainly don’t have the chemistry they had six months ago. As we saw during the campaign (let me pause here for a second and point you to my coverage of the organizational dynamics in the Trump campaign here | here | here | here but the first one is critical), Trump does not like a structured organization but rather one in which there are no real rules.

Conversely, Kelly is probably as powerful as any chief under Trump is going to be. Mostly because he won’t accept another strong chief and because he will be even less amenable to taking advice the longer he spends in the office…hence the trial balloons floated about having Trump be his own chief of staff.

Whenever former employees criticize their former boss or organization one always has reason to question the motives. When current employees do the same, you have even more reason to doubt because successful and high-performing employees don’t tend to roll like that. This nebulous character assassination seems more motivated by private axe-grinding than anything else. The “demeaning women” angle seems, in particular, calculated to cause damage.


I have a lot of doubts that Kelly has ever called Trump an idiot or expressed his personal role in saving the nation. He may or may not have thought them but those are not the things any military officer says about his boss to subordinates. It just doesn’t happen because even the dimmest bulb knows that people gossip and eventually you may have to kick someone’s ass or fire them and they will use the conversation against you.

Having said all that, whenever you have to issue an official statement that you DIDN’T call your boss an idiot, you’re not winning. At best you’re treading water and waiting for that next helpful person to toss you a cinder block to hold onto.


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