Kelly: I’m not quitting or getting fired
White House chief of staff John Kelly used his first public appearance before the news media on Thursday to dismiss rumors of friction between himself and President Trump.
Speaking in the White House press briefing room, Kelly said he is not planning to leave his post even as he acknowledged his new role “is the hardest job I’ve ever had.”
“I’m not quitting today,” Kelly told reporters. “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.”
While he acknowledged the difficulty of serving as Trump’s top aide, Kelly said it is “the most important job I’ve ever had” — albeit not the best. That, he said half-jokingly, was when he was an enlisted Marine Corps sergeant.
“Unless things change, I’m not quitting. I’m not getting fired. And I don’t think they’ll fire anyone tomorrow,” Kelly said.
Upon becoming chief of staff in late July, the retired four-star general moved quickly to impose order and discipline in what had been reportedly a chaotic and disorganized West Wing. That included restricting access to the Oval Office and streamlining the flow of information to Trump.
Those steps, however, have irked some senior officials and outside Trump allies who criticize Kelly for not allowing Trump to operate in the same freewheeling manner he did when running his businesses and presidential campaign.
There have been indications the president has grown frustrated with Kelly. The Los Angeles Times, citing anonymous sources, reported this week the two men had engaged in “shouting matches” over some of the constraints he has imposed.
If Kelly were to make a quick exit, it would cause upheaval in a White House that has already seen a remarkable amount of staff turnover and raise questions about Trump’s ability to run a stable administration.
Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus, as well as chief strategist Stephen Bannon, press secretary Sean Spicer, two communications directors and national security adviser Michael Flynn were all forced from their roles.
Trump, however, has repeatedly blasted media reports suggesting his new chief of staff is on the verge of departing.
“The Fake News is at it again, this time trying to hurt one of the finest people I know, General John Kelly, by saying he will soon be fired,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
“This story is totally made up by the dishonest media.The Chief is doing a FANTASTIC job for me and, more importantly, for the USA!”
During an event announcing Kelly’s replacement at the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday afternoon, Trump lauded Kelly as a “proud Marine” and said “he’s done a great job.”
Kelly sought to describe his role in the White House, making sure to dispel the notion he’s trying to rein in Trump’s behavior while lavishing praise on the president.
“I was not brought in to control him,” he told reporters. “You should not measure my effectiveness as a chief of staff by what you think I should be doing.”
While Kelly’s briefing room appearance was unusual for a White House chief of staff, the retired general showed an ease with the news media that’s uncommon on Trump’s team — all while vociferously defending the president’s words and actions.
Kelly wondered aloud if “the people in the front row [are] like the most important,” prompting chuckles and shouts of “no” from journalists in the room.
He channeled the president, who in recent days has waged a pitched battle with news organizations, by critiquing the accuracy of their reporting.
“One of his frustrations is you, all of you,” Kelly told reporters. “It is astounding to me how much is misreported … I would say maybe develop some better sources.”
At the same time, he indicated his intention to smooth ties with the White House press corps, acknowledging he has held three off-the-record sessions with reporters.
Updated: 3:21 p.m.
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