John Kelly Expected To Resign “Soon”

There's yet another rumor that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly could be on the way out.

CNN is reporting that John Kelly’s departure from the White House, which has been expected for some time now, could only be days away:

John Kelly is expected to resign as White House chief of staff in the coming days, two sources familiar with the situation unfolding in the West Wing tell CNN.

Seventeen months in, Kelly and President Donald Trump have reached a stalemate in their relationship and it is no longer seen as tenable by either party. Though Trump asked Kelly over the summer to stay on as chief of staff for two more years, the two have stopped speaking in recent days.

Trump is actively discussing a replacement plan, though a person involved in the process said nothing is final right now and ultimately it is up to Trump. Potential replacements include Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, who is still seen as a leading contender.

News of Kelly’s imminent departure was first reported by Axios.

The idea of Kelly leaving White House is not a new one, of course, and for that reason, it’s best to take these reports with a grain of salt to say the least. At the same time, it’s been the case that Kelly’s job as Chief of Staff has been a difficult one thanks in no small part to the fact that Trump himself does not appear inclined to listen to anyone who might try to tell him what to do.

At the start of Kelly’s tenure, it seemed that he was succeeding in bringing at least some sense of order to an incredibly disordered and undisciplined White House. He was able, for example, end the “open door” policy that had existed under Reince Priebus and regained most of the power traditionally granted to Chiefs of Staff when it comes to who could meet with the President. Kelly also succeeded in getting the paper flow to the President under control to the extent that it became less common that papers or press clippings did not end up before the President without being reviewed by either the Chief of Staff or the Staff Secretary. Kelly also managed to push to the side troublesome Presidential advisers such as Anthony ScaramucciSteve BannonSebastian Gorka, and Omarosa Manigault,  the former Apprentice contestant who had bizarrely fallen into Trump’s orbit and earned a position in the White House and who was dismissed from her position in what appeared to be unusual and dramatic circumstances.

Rather quickly, though, it soon became apparent that Kelly’s ability to control the West Wing in general and the President specifically was, at best, limited. The first indication of that came in the wake of the racially tinged protest in Charlottesville last August that resulted in the death of a young woman at the hands of a white supremacist. In his initial response to the incident, Trump blamed ‘both sides’ for the violence and refused to directly condemn groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which was present at the rally, or the broader so-called alt-right movement whose supporters made up the vast majority of the participants. While Kelly and others did convince the President to revise those comments with a statement that was more measured and emphatic than what he had said before. Days after that, though, Trump repeated his ‘both sides’ argument in a press conference at Trump Tower in New York that Kelly was present for, and then repeated them again a month later. In addition to that, Kelly’s presence in the White House didn’t stop the President from using his Twitter account to undercut the White House’s agenda for a given week on a regular basis, nor did it stop the President from making controversial statements at political rallies that, like his Tweets, would divert attention from other issues that the White House wanted to advice. As I noted just a month after Kelly had assumed his new role, it was rather obvious that Kelly could not control Donald Trump, and that this was having an impact on the White House’s ability to advance any kind of coherent message.

While Kelly hung on, there were persistent rumors that Kelly was close to being dismissed on several occasions and his continuing humiliation at the hands of the President made one wonder just how much longer he’d want to stay on the job. Earlier this year, meanwhile, it was being reported that Kelly had basically given up trying to control the President. Finally, as we approached the first anniversary of Kelly’s appointment, things appeared to calm down, with Kelly announcing to White House Staff that he had agreed to stay on until at least the 2020 elections. Despite this assurance, the rumors about Kelly resigning have persisted as have the reports about frequent disagreements between Kelly and the President. However, given the number of times we’ve heard this rumor before, it’s worth taking these latest reports with a grain of salt. Few people have been rumored to be on the way out more often than John Kelly. Eventually, I suppose, these predictions will turn out to be true but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be imminent.

Update: NBC News is now reporting that its own independent sources are confirming Kelly’s imminent departure:

That’s three news agencies, Axios, CNN, and NBC, that are reporting Kelly’s imminent department. This time it could be for real, folks.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.


  1. Kathy says:

    Perhaps if Kelly’s been rendered powerless, there’s no need for El Cheeto to fire him.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Fasten your seatbelts this is going to be a busy day.
    Kelly on his way out the door.
    Manafort’s lies get spelled out by Mueller.
    Cohen’s sentencing memo.
    Comey goes to Capital Hill.
    Papadopolous gets out of jail.
    Individual #1 has already tweeted 7 times. And he never mentioned Pearl Harbor even once.

  3. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Maybe infamy isn’t as long-lived as a migrant caravan?

  4. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Well, if Trump couldn’t be bothered to make the two-mile schlep to Arlington for Veterans’ Day, why on earth would anyone expect him to remember Pearl Harbor Day?

  5. al Ameda says:

    It’s almost a law of life:
    Anyone/everyone who does business with, or otherwise directly serves Donald Trump is eventually diminished

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Individual #1 did finally mentioned Pearl harbor.
    But not the shitty jobs report. 155,000 jobs added. More were added in Obama’s last 23 months than in Dennison’s first 23 months, so job growth is slower now.

  7. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Individual #1 did finally mentioned Pearl harbor.

    Has he found out how Obama did it?

  8. James Pearce says:

    Good riddance. He was an empty barrel anyway.

  9. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: Clearly he used the same time machine he used to plant the false birth certificate in the Honolulu Vital Records Office and place the birth announcements in the newspaper. He probably did it all on the same day to save time and fuel.

  10. dennis says:

    @James Pearce:

    I disagree. John Kelly is a Marine Corps general. He should’ve stayed as DHS chief. He had no business taking that steady, structured hand to the chaos that is Trump and his White House. Order and chaos are diametrically opposed; he was doomed to run afoul of the M-in-C.

  11. Kathy says:

    @just nutha:

    He probably did it all on the same day to save time and fuel.

    Of course you mean physiotime 😉

  12. James Pearce says:


    John Kelly is a Marine Corps general. He should’ve stayed as DHS chief.

    I don’t mean to invalidate his entire life or career, but he was a pretty terrible COS. Didn’t really help his guy too much, was routinely unprofessional, cussing out colleagues in the office and calling members of congress names at press conferences. At one time I thought he might be a little bit of order to contain the chaos, but turns out…he’s chaos too.

  13. dennis says:

    @James Pearce:

    He couldn’t overcome the chaos that is his boss.

  14. Gustopher says:

    It’s like rats leaving a sinking ship, except the rats are being thrown out while the ship is sinking.

    Best of luck to Mr. Kelly on his future endeavors or whatever. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet, doing the talk shows, punditing, collecting wingnut welfare…

  15. James Pearce says:


    He couldn’t overcome the chaos that is his boss.

    Has anyone? He just called his former SOS -a guy he picked- “dumb as a rock.”

    What’s he going to say about Pompeo?

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: Usually, people who are intelligent are able to understand when they are out of their depth and to listen to other people. Our POTUS doesn’t do this, and continually blusters about how more intelligent, smarter, gifted, skilled, and fantastic he is than anyone around him.

    Not having the guts to admit when you are out of your depth is, indeed, “as dumb as a rock.”

  17. mattbernius says:

    And Tucker Carlson just turned on the president:

    No. His chief promises were that he would build the wall, de-fund planned parenthood, and repeal Obamacare, and he hasn’t done any of those things. There are a lot of reasons for that, but since I finished writing the book, I’ve come to believe that Trump’s role is not as a conventional president who promises to get certain things achieved to the Congress and then does. I don’t think he’s capable. I don’t think he’s capable of sustained focus. I don’t think he understands the system. I don’t think the Congress is on his side. I don’t think his own agencies support him. He’s not going to do that.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @dennis: I think Trump’s management style is to create a rolling ball of chaos and nudge it in some vague direction, in hopes that novel and unexpected solutions are found from all of the competing parties.

    It’s not a normal process, and it’s not a process that usually gets things done (all the competing parties undermine conventional solutions, even when conventional solutions are decently effective), and it burns through employees at an amazing rate, but it does allow Trump to proclaim his weaknesses (attention span, basic understanding of issues) are a strength.

    And, it has served him well enough in his businesses — succeed, fail upwards, or declare bankruptcy. (It has not served his businesses well)

    No one is going to successfully contain the chaos.

    He has managed to attract people who hope to ride the chaos — Steve Bannon is one, but he forgot his place and tried to take credit for things. Steve Miller, on the other hand, quietly sits in the shadows, doing evil, and putting his stamp on all the details that Trump cannot be bothered to pay attention to.

    Meanwhile, Kelly and the rest of the “adults in the room” are just abused and humiliated as they struggle against the maelstrom.

    If Kelly is really out, that’s probably good for Kelly. But I don’t really wish anything good on Kelly at this point.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: And Tucker had to write a book to figure this out? Talk about “dumb as a rock…”

    ETA: “And, it has served him well enough in his businesses — succeed, fail upwards, or declare bankruptcy. (It has not served his businesses well)”

    This strikes me as a distinction without a difference and may be giving Trump too much credit for having deliberate processes that he uses to accomplish things. I think when he was younger, he may have had processes that he used, but it’s been a long time since Trump did anything other than sell “Trump–The Product Myth”

  20. Kathy says:


    I think Trump’s management style is to create a rolling ball of chaos and nudge it in some vague direction, in hopes that novel and unexpected solutions are found from all of the competing parties.

    I don’t think it’s that sophisticated. More likely he plain does what he feels like.

    What passes for his administration does bring to mind a stupid, slow-witted version of the Shadows in Babylon 5. Not so much as portrayed in the TV series(*), but as described in the Technomage Trilogy (awesome read) by Jeanne Cavelos. Near the end (no spoilers), we’re told the Shadows prescribed chaos for others, not for themselves. El Dennison isn’t that smart.

    (*) For all I enjoyed B5, I feel Straczynski, the show’s creator and main writer, gave short shrift to the ideologies which, in essence, drove the show’s action.

  21. Paine says:


    I think Trump’s management style is to create a rolling ball of chaos and nudge it in some vague direction, in hopes that novel and unexpected solutions are found from all of the competing parties.

    And take credit when it goes well and blame others when it doesn’t…

  22. CSK says:

    Kelly is out. Trump just announced it.