John Kelly’s exit raises concerns about White House future

The departure of White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE is raising concerns about how the White House will face potential legal and political challenges in 2019. 

Kelly, who was thought to bring order to an often chaotic White House, will leave the West Wing as special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election appears to be closing in on President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE.

Trump will also face a divided Congress next year, with Democrats slated to take control of the House in January, giving the party subpoena power.

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Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia MORE (D-Conn.) said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that he's concerned Mueller may be on the "chopping block" after the departure of Kelly.

"I imagine that [Kelly] was one of the people that was attempting to convince the president not to fire Mueller, to not issue pardons as a means of trying to influence the investigation."

"And so I think with his departure, certainly depending on who replaces him, our concerns that Mueller may be on the chopping block are more serious and this legislation becomes more important," he added.

Kelly, a retired four-star general, was viewed as having brought a level of stability to a White House filled with turmoil.

He was also thought to have been able to scale back Trump's decisions, as he imposed a number of restrictions on the president after he took over the reins as chief of staff from Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Biden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet MORE last year. Kelly reportedly limited Trump's access to his personal cell phone and limited impromptu visits to the Oval Office among aides.

Outgoing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) in a statement on Saturday called Kelly a "force for order, clarity, and good sense."

“Our country is better for his duty at the White House. During this time he has become a dear friend and trusted partner," Ryan said. "He was a force for order, clarity, and good sense. He is departing what is often a thankless job, but John Kelly has my eternal gratitude.”

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden MORE (R-Fla.) told CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday he didn't know yet whether he should be concerned about the order and stability of the White House after Kelly's exit.

“It depends who they put in as a replacement,” he said. "Hopefully it will be someone just as qualified, just as strong. It's good for our country to have someone like that in that post."

Trump announced Kelly's departure on Saturday, calling him a "great guy" and saying he will leave at the end of the year. His replacement is expected to have a more political focus than Kelly ahead of 2020.

Rumors of hot-tempered disputes with other staffers have dogged Kelly's tenure, and he has been criticized over his handling of domestic abuse allegations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, among other situations, which means not everyone is unhappy to see Kelly exit.

Rep. Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeHouse passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks Haiti Caucus: Forging path out of crisis will not be quick, but necessary to avoid false 'democracy' US lawmakers express shock at Haitian president's assassination MORE's (D-N.Y.) response on Sunday was "thank u, next." 

She said Kelly "destroyed his reputation" by making false allegations in the past, apparently referring to comments he made last year about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

"John Kelly destroyed his reputation when he lied on a sitting Member of Congress," she wrote on Twitter. "Trump’s Cabinet of Corruption is cracking. Thank u, next."