Kelly tells White House staff no more personnel changes coming

Greg Nash

Chief of staff John Kelly briefed White House staff on Friday to reassure them that there will be no more dismissals at this time, according to a White House official.

The White House is looking to tamp down the frenzy in Washington over speculation about a staff overhaul after President Trump’s abrupt firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a number of other departures sent the rumor mill into overdrive.

“The chief of staff actually spoke to a number of staff this morning, reassuring them that there were no immediate personnel changes at this time and that people shouldn’t be concerned, that we should do exactly what we do everyday, and that’s come to work and do the best job we can,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “That’s exactly what we’re doing and exactly what we’re focused on.”

Sanders said she met personally with others who weren’t in the meeting to tell them the same.


The Washington Post reported late Thursday that Trump has decided to remove national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The report said the White House is looking for a soft landing spot for the three-star general, and potentially some place where he could continue his military career and earn a fourth star.

The White House disputed that report, with Sanders saying she spoke directly to Trump and relayed to McMaster that the president is not planning any changes to his National Security Council.

“The president said that it was not accurate and he had no intention of changing and that they have a great working relationship and he looked forward to continuing to work with him,” Sanders said.

“Our focus is not on a lot of the news stories you would like us to be focused on,” she told reporters. “We’re actually focused on what the American people want us to do. That’s to come here, to do our jobs. General McMaster is a dedicated public servant and he is here not focused on the news stories that many of you are writing but on some really big issues, things like North Korea, Russia, Iran. That’s what he’s doing. And that’s what we’ll continue to be focused on every single day we show up for work.”

There has also been speculation that Trump could fire one of his embattled Cabinet secretaries, either David Shulkin at the Department of Veterans Affairs or Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Both are dealing with accusations that they misused taxpayer funds.

Others have speculated that Kelly himself could be on the way out or that the president might have reached the end of the line with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

The president’s own words have contributed to the frenzy of speculation.

“There will always be change, and I think you want to see change,” Trump said Thursday.

Those remarks mirrored a statement the president made after removing Tillerson from State on Monday. Trump said he’s “getting very close” to having the Cabinet and advisers he wants.

Sanders said Friday that the president was talking about a desire to get CIA Director Mike Pompeo quickly confirmed to replace Tillerson at State. CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, who has been nominated to replace Pompeo as CIA director, will also need to be confirmed by the Senate.

“He nominated two new people to be part of his Cabinet, we are getting close,” Sanders said. “We would like those two individuals to be quickly confirmed and put through that process so they can take a seat at the table and continue to engage with the president on big issues that actually matter to the American people.”

The White House has been racked by turnover in recent weeks.

National economic adviser Gary Cohn has stepped down. Trump has tapped economist and television personality Larry Kudlow, who is also an opinion contributor for The Hill, to replace him and the White House is hopeful he can start this month.

Communications director Hope Hicks, who has been with Trump since the start of the campaign, is also leaving, as are a handful of other high-level aides, including Josh Raffel and Reed Cordish.

Several others have been forced out. Former staff secretary Rob Porter resigned after his ex-wives accused him of spousal abuse.

The Porter incident ignited a controversy over the security clearances process within the White House that led to a slew of departures. Most recently, Trump’s personal assistant Johnny McEntee left the White House to join the campaign after a background check turned up red flags that cost him his security clearance.

Tags Ben Carson David Shulkin Donald Trump Hope Hicks Jeff Sessions John Kelly Mike Pompeo Rex Tillerson
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