Priebus forced out; Kelly to replace him as WH chief of staff

Greg Nash

President Trump on Friday dismissed Reince Priebus as his chief of staff and replaced him with retired four-star Marine Corps General and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a dramatic shakeup of a White House staff riven by infighting and distrust.
Priebus has borne the brunt of the blame for the lack of progress on Trump’s legislative agenda. He has been derided for months by Trump allies and outside critics saw him as a weak chief of staff who was never able to become a gatekeeper for the president.
Trump abruptly announced the decision Friday evening on Twitter as Air Force One landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland as he returned from a trip to New York.
“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” he tweeted.
Speaking to reporters minutes later, Trump said Priebus was a “good man” but called his Homeland Security chief a “star.”
“Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job. Gen. Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. He’s a great, great American,” the president said. 
Priebus served 189 days on the job, the shortest tenure of any White House chief of staff in history. His dismissal marks the end of a tumultuous tenure in which he clashed with other top Trump advisers, most recently Anthony Scaramucci, the newly named communications director.
Priebus had initially tried to block Scaramucci from another White House job. But last week, Trump tapped the brash Wall Street financier to lead the White House press shop over strong objections from Priebus and then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Spicer resigned as a result of that hire, depriving Priebus of a key ally.
The dispute burst into public view this week when Scaramucci accused Priebus of leaking to the news media. In a profane tirade to a New Yorker reporter, Scaramucci called Priebus a “f—ing paranoid schizophrenic” and said that he will be “asked to resign very shortly.”
While the Scaramucci spat may have been the final straw for Priebus, his departure has long been in the works. 
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump and Priebus have been talking for two weeks about his exit and that Kelly and Trump have been talking about the move “for a while.”
Kelly will start in his new post on Monday, when there will be a Cabinet meeting, according to Sanders.
Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, said during an interview hours later on CNN that he offered his resignation and Trump accepted it. 
But some observers questioned his version of events, noting that Priebus traveled with Trump aboard the presidential aircraft on Friday to New York for a speech on gang violence. 
It was there where his tenure met an unceremonious end.
Upon landing at Andrews, Priebus got into van on the rain-soaked tarmac with White House policy adviser Stephen Miller and social media director Dan Scavino. But shortly after, the two men exited the van and left Priebus alone, according to a reporter at the base. 
The now-former chief of staff’s car then pulled out of the president’s motorcade and left, while Trump remained on Air Force One.
Priebus offered nothing but kind words for Trump despite his exit. 
“I’m always going to be a Trump fan, I’m on Team Trump,” Priebus told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I think the president wanted to go a different direction. I support him in that.” 
Priebus called Kelly a “brilliant” pick to succeed him and said he thinks “it’s a good time to hit the reset button” at the White House. 
He also declined to respond to Scaramucci’s rant against him, saying, “I’m not going to get into the mud on those sorts of things.”
The chief of staff’s ouster caps off one of the toughest weeks of Trump’s presidency. It comes less than a day after the Republican push to repeal ObamaCare collapsed in the Senate.
The former Republican Party chief was hired as Trump’s top aide in part because his ability to leverage his ties to top lawmakers on Capitol Hill, such as Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), to advance Trump’s agenda on healthcare and tax reform. 
The Priebus-led RNC played an integral role propelling Trump to victory in the 2016 election, helping launch the campaign’s data program and serving as its team on the ground in several key states.
But those relationships did not translate into success for Priebus inside the West Wing. 
He struggled to maintain control over Trump’s daily schedule, access to the Oval Office and decisions on administration hires — all traditional responsibilities of the chief of staff. 
Many of Trump’s confidantes openly criticized Priebus. Just weeks into the presidency, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, a friend of Trump’s, publicly criticized the chief of staff as “weak” days after a meeting with Trump.
Ruddy later walked that comment back, but it was indicative of the uneven footing that Priebus stood on amid steady leaks of sensitive information from the White House and constant rumors about impending staff shakeups that, until recently, never came to fruition.
That perceived weakness led Priebus to clash with other top aides in order to maintain his standing, generating negative media coverage White House infighting. 
Early in the administration, he feuded with chief strategist Stephen Bannon. But the two men eventually made peace as they sought to counter the influence of Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom are senior advisers. 
Now, speculation is swirling about the future of Bannon and other top aides as Trump shakes up his team.
Kelly, who led the U.S. Southern Command under former President Barack Obama before joining the Trump administration in January, faces a daunting task in stabilizing a White House staff that has been plagued by constant turnover and internal rivalries that are often fueled by the president himself. 
In just over six months, Trump has seen his chief of staff, press secretary, deputy chief of staff, national security adviser, deputy national security adviser and communications director either be fired, resign or take other jobs. 
Many aides have unfettered access to Trump and some, such as Scaramucci, reported directly to him instead of Priebus. That dynamic often caused confusion about the flow of advice and information to the president, and meant that the chief of staff was sometimes out of the loop. 

Trump sees himself as his own chief of staff and never fully empowered Priebus to wield control over his schedule and team. It’s not clear whether Kelly will be granted those powers.

Priebus’ exit also raises questions about Trump’s relationship with the Republican Party moving forward. 
He brought a number of former RNC staffers over to the White House when he joined the administration. Spicer tendered his resignation last week, while senior assistant press secretary Michael Short resigned Tuesday after Scaramucci told Politico that he would fire him.
Without those figures, Trump is losing many institutional links to the party on his White House team. 
“I think we’ve still got a good relationship. We’re going to continue working with the party and continue doing what we came here to do,” Sanders said.
Updated: 7:48 p.m.
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