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) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election appears to be closing in on President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 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 MurphyHobbled NRA shows strength with Trump Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces White House eyes September action plan for gun proposals 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 PriebusTrump blasts Scaramucci as 'incapable' Trump taps Sean Spicer to join Naval Academy board of visitors Trump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender 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 RyanPaul Ryan moving family to Washington Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Ex-Parkland students criticize Kellyanne Conway 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 RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China 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 ClarkeInside the progressive hunt for vulnerable House Democrats Hillicon Valley: DOJ opens tech antitrust probe | Facebook, Amazon set lobbying records | Barr attacks encryption as security risk | NSA to create new cybersecurity arm House lawmakers to introduce bill banning facial recognition tech in public housing 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."