Report Says John Kelly Called Trump An “Idiot.”

More signs of tension between President Trump and his Chief of Staff.


NBC News is out with a new report that appears to show that the tensions between President Trump and his Chief of Staff aren’t letting up, suggesting that John Kelly’s days in the White House could be numbered:

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.

Kelly called the allegations “total BS.”

“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” said Kelly in a statement. “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the president, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

Three White House spokespeople said they don’t believe it’s accurate that Kelly called the president an “idiot,” adding that none of them has ever heard him do that or otherwise use that word.

Officials said Kelly’s public image as a retired four-star general instilling discipline on a chaotic White House and an impulsive president belies what they describe as the undisciplined and indiscreet approach he’s employed as chief of staff. The private manner aides describe may shed new light on why Kelly now finds himself — just nine months into the job — grappling with diminished influence and a drumbeat of questions about how long he’ll remain at the White House.

“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.'”

Trump, who aides said has soured on his second chief of staff, is aware of some though not all of Kelly’s comments, according to the current and former officials.

The White House spokespeople said they haven’t heard Kelly talk about himself as the one saving the country, and that if anything he may have spoken in jest along those lines.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said Kelly’s comments about Trump, when compared to previous White House chiefs of staff, “suggest a lack of respect for the sitting president of a kind that we haven’t seen before.” Beschloss said the closest similarity would be President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff during his second term, Don Regan, who “somewhat looked down on” his boss and eventually lost the support of the staff and the president. Regan was replaced after two years by Howard Baker.

(…)

Kelly entered the White House with a mandate to instill order in a West Wing where aides regularly had unfettered access to the president. He adopted some key changes, such as shrinking the number of people in meetings and limiting access to the Oval Office.

He has also pushed back against the president on some foreign policy and military issues, current and former White House officials said.

In one heated exchange between the two men before February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kelly strongly — and successfully — dissuaded Trump from ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, according to two officials.

For Kelly, the exchange underscored the reasoning behind one of his common refrains, which multiple officials described as some version of “I’m the one saving the country.”

“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 made similar comments to lawmakers, at times making fun of what he sees as Trump’s lack of knowledge about policy and government, current and former officials said.

He’s been particularly cutting when it comes to immigration issues, which he considers one of his policy strong suits, having served as Homeland Security secretary and head of the combatant command for U.S. military operations in Central America and South America, the officials said.

Kelly held a series of meetings in his office with White House officials during negotiations with lawmakers on funding for the president’s border wall and a resolution on a program — known as DACA — that allows some people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country, according to four officials who either attended or were briefed on the meetings.

He often used the settings to express concern that Trump would agree to a deal that’s not hardline enough on immigration and criticized the president’s knowledge of the issues to underscore his point, the officials said.

“He doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot,” Kelly said in one meeting, according to two officials who were present. “We’ve got to save him from himself.”

This isn’t the first report about conflict between Trump and his second Chief of Staff, of course. For months now, rumors about Kelly’s impending ouster have been circulating in Washington for months now along with reports that the President has been growing increasingly frustrated with Kelly’s efforts to impose discipline on an undisciplined White House and an undisciplined President. More than once, there have been reports of disputes between Kelly and Trump over these restrictions, as well as growing conflict between the two men. One report, for example, alleged that Kelly and Trump had gotten into a heated argument in the Oval Office to the point where Kelly started boxing up some of his personal belongings in preparation for leaving the office that very day. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and some reports have indicated  but that hasn’t stopped the reports about conflicts between the two, as well as increasing efforts by Trump to essentially make an end run around Kelly by calling people without going through him and excluding him from important phone calls, including a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Trump congratulated Putin on his win in an election that nobody believes was actually legitimate. Most recently, it was reported that Trump was considering selecting Kelly as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs after the failed nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson, although it’s unclear if Kelly would agree to such an appointment if it appeared as if he was being thrown a bone after being thrown out the White House door. On top of it all, there have been those who wondered how long Kelly, who has been on duty ever since signing up for the Marine Corps decades ago, would put up with this kind of humiliation although it seems clear that his sense of duty is playing a large role in his decision to stay where he is. This report is only destined to add to that speculation.

Obviously, the part of this report that is gaining the most attention is the fact that Kelly has reportedly referred to the President of the United States as an “idiot” in conversations with members of the White House Staff. This brings to mind similar reports last year that Rex Tillerson, who of course was still Secretary of State at the time, had referred to the President as a “moron.” Like Kelly is today, Tillerson denied those reports but they obviously led to more tension between himself and the President that only began to increase as time went on. Five months later, of course, Tillerson was out as Secretary of State, having received the news of his fate in a rather unceremonious manner. According to this report and others that have come out in recent months, Kelly may not have to wait that long for his own departure, with some reports indicating that he may be gone by the time the one-year anniversary of his coming on at the White House arrives in July.

 

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Moron: I.Q of 51 to 70
    Imbecile: I.Q. of 26 to 50
    Idiot: I.Q. of 0 to 25

    Tillerson was being kind.




    9



    0
  2. Kylopod says:

    “I spend more time with the emperor than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” said Kelly in a statement. “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the emperor, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to the emperor and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

    Three White House spokespeople said they don’t believe it’s accurate that Kelly claimed the emperor “has no clothes,” adding that none of them has ever heard him do that or otherwise use those words.

    Fixed.




    8



    0
  3. CSK says:

    Slightly OT, but Harold Borenstein (remember that he was the doctor who wrote a letter claiming that Trump was the healthiest person ever to be president) is claiming that two days after he announced that he’d prescribed Trump the hair loss drug Procepia, his office was raided by Keith Schiller, Trump’s body guard; and Alan Garner, one of Trump’s lawyers, who seized Trump’s medical records and carried them off. Borenstein said he felt “sad” and “raped” by the event. He also said he was thrilled when Ronny Jackson’s nomination to be head of the V.A. was scuttled, since he himself expected to be appointed WH physician.

    Man, Trump always hires the best people. Always.




    11



    0
  4. John430 says:

    “Reports, reports, reports” and all anonymous. I heard a “report” that Trump called Mataconis a “buffoon who should stick to ambulance-chasing.” Reports abound Doug. Wait until facts and names come out otherwise you are just presenting “fake news’ for click-bait counts.




    1



    24
  5. CSK says:

    @John430:

    I ask this in all sincerity, because I genuinely want to know: Why do you so revere Trump? The man is shockingly badly informed, and seems determined to remain so. Is it that you’re mistaking oafishness for plain speaking? Do you identify with him? Or do you project onto him qualities he obviously lacks?




    12



    0
  6. Kathy says:

    Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said Kelly’s comments about Trump, when compared to previous White House chiefs of staff, “suggest a lack of respect for the sitting president of a kind that we haven’t seen before.”

    There has never been anyone in that position more deserving of disrespect.

    As for Kelly calling the Orange Clown an idiot: He’s telling it like it is. Saying what we’re all thinking. Not being politically correct.

    And he’s right.




    8



    0
  7. michael reynolds says:

    @John430:
    Yep. Just like the reports that said Priebus would be out. And McMaster. And Hope Hicks. And Tillerson. ‘The reports’ have been right, and your White Savior has lied again and again and again.




    16



    0
  8. michael reynolds says:

    @John430:
    In fact, here’s a story on Sean Hannity not once, but twice now, being forced to retract when he accused the NYT of being wrong. The few actual reporters at Fox confirmed the NYT stories.




    12



    0
  9. Mister Bluster says:

    Why do you so revere Trump?

    I don’t know why Johnny Telephone worships REPUBLICAN President Pork Chop Pud.
    But I do know why American Nazi’s and the KKK support Trump and I am sure they appreciate Johnny’s support.




    6



    0
  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Water is wet
    Grass is green
    Sky is blue
    Trump is…

    Yeah, it is the first thing that comes to mind. Can’t blame Kelly for stating the obvious.

    The challenge is that when “the truth” and “the obvious” no longer fit the narrative, then that’s a problem. Of course, the Russians always knew what to do when that happened.

    Did anyone else see “The Death of Stalin”? Great flick.
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4686844/




    4



    0
  11. Kylopod says:

    Somewhat OT – “Dr.” Harold Bornstein, who allegedly wrote the 2015 letter claiming Trump would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” has admitted Trump dictated the entire letter to him.

    https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/01/politics/harold-bornstein-trump-letter/index.html

    Of course we all pretty much knew all this from the moment of the letter’s release. But I have to say I was a little surprised Bornstein would just up and admit it this soon. For the past few years there’s been something surreal about the lengths people have gone to maintain the farce of Trump with a straight face, and it’s led a lot of us to assume that the real truths about him won’t come out for a long, long time. So when I hear Bornstein’s confession, I’m thinking maybe stuff like the tax returns or the pee tape, or more substantive revelations that we’ve suspected all along, aren’t too far around the corner.




    9



    0
  12. Guarneri says:

    Here are your spit towels. Keep doing each other with this stuff.

    The world is laughing…………..




    0



    14
  13. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    I do wonder why Dr. Harold decided to unload all this stuff just now.




    3



    0
  14. Mikey says:

    @John430: See, here’s what Trumpist fools like you don’t seem to get:

    The sources are only anonymous for publication. The reporters know exactly who the sources are. They know where the sources work, and how and from where their sources get information.

    Which is why, as Reynolds points out, the sources have been correct, again and again and again.




    10



    0
  15. Daryl’s other brother Darryl says:

    @John430:
    @Guarneri:
    You sycophants are getting desperate.
    Sad!




    5



    0
  16. Timothy Watson says:

    In one heated exchange between the two men before February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kelly strongly — and successfully — dissuaded Trump from ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, according to two officials.

    How the frak is this not getting more attention? This could very well be the most insane thing that Trump has ever suggested and it does not bode well for any negotiations with North Korea.

    Kim Jong-un (opening statement): I demand that the United States pull out all troops from the Korean peninsula.
    Trump: Agreed! Bigly deal!
    Kim Jong-un (whispering to adviser): Did we just win?




    9



    0
  17. Jen says:

    @Timothy Watson: Agreed. That was the jaw-dropping disclosure for me too.

    It is completely crazy that there was a “heated argument” over that. If that really happened, Trump really *is* an idiot. Good grief.




    7



    0
  18. Lounsbury says:

    @John430: What I find interesting about these kinds of posts is the illustration that the Right side of the political equation is not immune to the slavish Bolshevik style adherence to a Party Line contra all objective fact.

    For a very long time I had rather thought that it was only the hard Left – the Bolsheviks, the Communists proper, etc – and the extremist Fascists on the Right that were so inclined, and felt a certain degree of pleasure in that.

    Sadly, that was wrong.

    @Guarneri:
    Yes, indeed the world is laughing. At the utter clown show that the US Republican Party has become. It really is sad to see the descent into Bolshevik style Party Line politics.




    9



    0
  19. James Pearce says:

    @John430:

    “Reports, reports, reports” and all anonymous.

    The call is coming from inside the house, John.

    “according to eight current and former White House officials.”




    2



    0
  20. Dave Schuler says:

    I object to his use of the term idiot. The appropriate designation is “profound intellectual disability”.




    0



    0
  21. Franklin says:

    Paul Begala has what I find to be an excellent opinion piece on CNN today. Summarizing, it’s true that Trump doesn’t have traditional academic smarts, or in fact any of the traits needed for a President. He is, however, quite adept at manipulating a large subset of the population; i.e. he is a skilled demagogue.

    Begala goes on to point out that no amount of insulting Trump’s intelligence will have any effect on his followers.




    1



    0
  22. KM says:

    @Franklin:

    no amount of insulting Trump’s intelligence

    It’s not an insult – it’s a fact. The man is willfully ignorant and damn proud of it. His claims of having “a very good brain” are like listening to Homer Simpson trying to reason out insane troll logic and then dancing around singing “I am so smart! S-M-R-T!” Why yes, he’s good at manipulating certain people but that says more about *them* then *him* – you can’t be a con man without a mark. The best con man in the world can’t fool someone who’s onto his tricks. A demagogue needs a audience willing to buy the premise or else they’re the nutcase on the street corner. If you plunked Trump down in another society and let him do his schtick, do you think he’d end up their leader?

    Look, I know plenty of people who aren’t book-smart and they are nothing like Trump. Hell, I know illiterate people who never graduated from grade school that are smarter then him by a mile. Why? Because they are capable of learning, they just don’t know what they need to know right now. Trump’s got the world and all it’s knowledge at his fingertips and is becoming even stupider as the days go by. Intelligence is capacity and ability, not volume. The man has none of the above.




    7



    0
  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    You are so out-of-touch you’re basically Pierce (the Chevy Chase character) from Community. Our official out of touch old fart who’s only there to make the other characters look smarter.




    1



    0
  24. Franklin says:

    @KM:

    It’s not an insult – it’s a fact.

    I don’t think there’s a contradiction there. You can insult someone based on facts.

    Like I said, he has no useful skills or intelligence for being President. We’re in agreement there. But you seem to imply, by comparing your not-book-smart friends with Trump, that you’re still looking for particular skills that *you* find useful. You won’t find those in Trump, true enough. But just look at the trance he’s cast over Guarneri, et al. To paraphrase others, Trump is a dumb person’s idea of a smart person, and I think he’s consciously cultivated that appearance.

    EDIT: Carefully re-reading your post, I also agree he’s not learning any new tricks. Doesn’t matter, he’s got the old tricks that still work on many people.




    1



    0
  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Franklin:
    The reason it matters whether or not Trump is learning new tricks is that old tricks get older and then suddenly they became absurd. The tricks Trump has give him a ceiling of about 40-45%. That number has not grown at all, despite a strong economy and a lack of new wars. He’s a business with a niche market and zero potential for growth. Trump is Ritz Crackers. Someone’s always going to like Ritz Crackers, but they’ve done nothing but lose market share and have no potential for a sudden break-out. He’s Quaker Oats. He’s a tired old brand getting older and more tired every day.

    If he were adapting I’d be much more worried. His rigidity and inability to learn or evolve is Trump’s best feature: it what dooms him to becoming a national joke.




    2



    0
  26. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @CSK: The fact that progressives and liberals don’t like him. Seriously….despisal factor by the other team is the weightiest factor in their approval of Trump or any other Republican. They don’t care what these people do…..as long as they anger Liberals in the process.




    4



    0
  27. John430 says:

    @CSK: None of the above. Just looking for reasoned debate from the left. All this “collusion” stuff is of the same caliber of Obama’s birth certificate stuff.




    0



    4
  28. John430 says:

    @James Pearce: Again…says WHO




    0



    3
  29. teve tory says:

    “The reports are all lies. There are no american infidels in baghdad. Tanks are not in fact visible over my shoulder…”




    3



    0
  30. al-Ameda says:

    @John430:

    All this “collusion” stuff is of the same caliber of Obama’s birth certificate stuff.

    Yeah … that’s the ticket …
    That Birther stuff was racist garbage, complete fiction. In the world of non-fiction Trump has numerous, well known and documented business financial dealings with Russians. Plus many Trump confidants and campaign advisors have been lying or dissembling about their contacts with Russians during the campaign.

    There are now people, like Jonathan Chait (yeah, I know, fake news media) asking the question: “Did Trump Bribe Ukraine to Stop Cooperating With Mueller?” Who knows where this will go?

    As we learned during Robert Mueller like Ken Starr 25 years before, is going where the facts take him, and Trump is getting very angry and nervous.




    1



    0
  31. James Pearce says:

    @John430:

    says WHO

    8 unidentified White House officials who are trying to get John Kelly fired by leaking to the press. You want to know their names?

    Go get a job at a news org covering the White House beat. They’ll be leaking to you in no time.




    4



    0