John Kelly Out as White House Chief of Staff, Trump Says

President Donald Trump said Saturday White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his post at the end of the year, concluding a rocky tenure during which he clashed with his boss.

“A great guy,” Trump said of the retired Marine Corps general as he left the White House for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

“We’ll be announcing who will be taking John’s place” in the next few days, Trump added.

Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff is rumored to be the leading candidate to replace Kelly. The departure of the man White House aides refer to as “General Kelly” is a major victory for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president's daughter and son-in-law, who both are senior White House aides. Both had clashed with Kelly, who drastically scaled back Kushner's policy portfolio.

Kelly’s coming exit shows, yet again, how individuals with power and influence outside the Trump orbit can enter it even in senior positions but clash with the president's family and be ousted.

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The move is yet another reversal for the president, who had his staff announce earlier this year — after a previous round of Kelly departure rumors — that the retired Marine four-star general would stay in his post through Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. 

But Trump reportedly grew testy with his staff in the days following the Republicans’ loss of the House and seats at the state level in the midterm elections. Their boss let his frustrations show on Twitter, using a six-hour flight to Paris on No. 9 to go on an extended rant about his domestic political foes even after telling reporters that morning he was focused on “the world.”

His bad mood continued on Saturday, as he appeared visibly sullen during a one-on-one meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and then when he canceled a visit to a cemetery where 1,800 U.S. troops who died in World War I are buried. The president on Tuesday blamed the Secret Service, in a rare admonishing of the agents that keep him — and his family — safe.

Trump has made no secret of his desire to make staff and Cabinet changes, describing in plain words his expectation that just about everyone will depart his administration at some point.

Trump in recent months has signaled he was poised to carry out something of a purge of his Cabinet and his West Wing senior staff following the midterm elections. That began  when he used a tweet on Nov. 7 to announce Attorney General Jeff Sessions was out. 

Kelly is the latest Cabinet official or senior White House staffer to exit Trump’s ever-changing roster of advisers and department heads. But he brushes off any notion that his staff has had more turnover than other administrations, even though the data suggests it does.

“People leave,” Trump said during a rowdy 90-minute press conference just hours before Sessions resignation at his behest was announced in a tweet.

“And I’ll tell you, there will be changes. Nothing monumental from that standpoint. I don’t think very much different than most administrations,” Trump said. “We have many people lined up for every single position. Any position.

“Everybody wants to work in this White House. We are a hot country. This is a hot White House,” the president contended. “We are a White House that people want to work with.”

There long had been reports of tensions between Trump and Kelly - typically walked back by one or both within a few days. That did not happen this time, however.

Kelly had previously been Homeland Security secretary, and his move to the West Wing did bring some order to what had been a disorganized and chaotic operation. But it also installed an immigration hardliner just steps from the Oval Office — with walk-in privileges, which he cut off for many senior advisers. He also pared the portfolios of daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, both senior advisers to Trump.

But Kelly never viewed the job as trying to manage the president, which allowed Trump to at times continue stepping on the White House’s intended messages. And he could not completely keep the entire staff on a short enough leash to prevent damaging insider accounts from making it into the media. 

On April 30, for instance, a report citing eight former or current White House staffers surfaced that Kelly once called Trump an “idiot” and had frequently questioned the chief executive’s intelligence in front of other staffers. The White House pushed back against the NBC News report with force, with Kelly calling it “total BS” in a statement released shortly after the article was published online.

“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” Kelly said. “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the president, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a day later denied speculation that Trump might shift Kelly, to the corner office at Veterans’ Affairs.

The president reportedly had grown increasingly irritated with Cabinet officials and senior aides who too often disagreed with or pushed back on his whims or policy stances — both of which can shift quicker than the wind. In recent months, it was clear he and Kelly were not on the same “wavelength.”

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Kelly’s exit only fuels a turnover rate that Brookings Institution has concluded is higher than the previous five presidents. 

Kelly was first rumored to be on his way out in February his handling of a domestic abuse scandal involving former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter. Kelly pressed Porter, to whom he had come to rely and grew close, to step down after images surfaced of his first wife with a black eye she contends he gave her.

Kelly defended Porter multiple times over a day and half after the first reports, including the photograph, emerged. But that wasn’t what annoyed the president: Kelly acknowledged he knew about the abuse allegations — but not the photo — months before the allegations went public. He did not tell Trump, who blames Kelly for not avoiding another major scandal.

Since, Kelly has shifted the timeline for when Porter resigned and described different chains of events on how he handled the matter.

What’s more, Kelly has led negotiations with lawmakers but failed to deliver the president the immigration deal he believes would be a major legislative feat. And then there was Trump’s mounting feeling that Kelly was trying to over-manage him.

In the end, it was all too much for Kelly to overcome.

The president often liked to flex his muscles and remind the general who was in charge. For instance, on the evening of Jan. 24 Kelly informed Trump he had a group of reporters waiting in his office for a chat about the White House’s immigration overhaul plan. About four minutes into the session, however, Trump popped in.

“How’s he doing?” Trump asked the reporters in a tone that was one part joking and one part mocking. “Okay?”

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Revelations that GOP Rep.-elect Ross Spano violated campaign finance law by taking out personal loans and directing approximately the same amount to his campaign should disqualify him from serving in Congress, Florida Democrats say.

Spano “knew exactly what he was doing when he took personal loans and used them as campaign funds, which is against the law,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement earlier this week. “This matter needs to be fully investigated, and appropriate actions taken.”

The freshman Republican acknowledged transgressing rules against straw donations in a letter from his attorney to the Federal Election Commission dated last week.

Spano borrowed $180,000 in four installments from June to October at an interest rate of 5 percent. The candidate lent his campaign committee $167,000 in personal funds over roughly the same period. 

Spano accepted $75,000 from a lender on Oct. 29, eight days before the election, and directed $70,000 to his campaign on the same day.

The loans far exceed the $2,700 limit on contributions from individuals to federal candidates. Spano expects to fully repay them by the end of this week, according to the letter to regulators.

The loans only came to light on the eve of Election Day through a financial disclosure form Spano submitted 3½ months after it was due, facing questions from the Tampa Bay Times about the missing filing.

That delay casts doubt on the assertion made in the letter that Spano “believed he was acting in full compliance of the law,” critics say.

Whether Spano knowingly broke the law is a critical question, because while the FEC can impose lighter penalties through an expedited “sua sponte” procedure when candidates proactively report violations, commission regulators may consider whether the violation was a mistake or “knowing and willful.”

Spano "took the proactive step to voluntarily disclose this information in an effort to rectify the situation as quickly as possible," spokeswoman Sandi Poreda stressed in an email Monday.

Despite the doubts surrounding the claim that Spano believed he was acting lawfully, he will likely be successful in seeking resolution through the FEC's expedited process. 

“I’m not aware of a ‘sua sponte’ complaint that has been rejected,” an FEC spokesman said.

The new information about Spano's loans, and the possibility that the member-elect will be sworn into office with no punishment more severe than a fine, outraged his former campaign opponents.

“Had I known that the remedy may be to say I got bad advice and ask for forgiveness, I bet I could have found some sugar daddy that needed a friend in Congress to ‘loan’ me a wad,” former Republican primary opponent Neil Combee told Florida Politics.

His former opponents question how Spano, once a candidate for state attorney general, could have been unaware of the law. 

“He blames it on misguided advice from his treasurer, but his name is on the checks ... once he gets a ‘hall pass’ from this transgression, who will Spano be beholden to?” said Danny Kushmer, another Republican primary opponent who went on to endorse Spano in the general election.

“Unfortunately, I did not know to what extent he was willing to go to win.” 

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, suggesting she doesn’t see a resolution to the partisan impasse over border wall funding, said Thursday she’d like to see the Department of Homeland Security funded on a continuing resolution through the remainder of fiscal 2019.

Seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, including the DHS measure, are currently running on a continuing resolution that expires Friday. The House passed another stopgap by unanimous consent Thursday that will extend the funding deadline to Dec. 21. The Senate is expected to pass that two-week CR later Thursday.

Pelosi said said her preferred solution for meeting the new deadline is for Congress to pass the six appropriations bills that appropriators have agreement on with a continuing resolution for the DHS measure.

The DHS stopgap should run through remainder of fiscal 2019, she said. 

Appropriators and leaders in both parties have said that border wall funding is pretty much the last item that remains unresolved in the seven spending bills Congress has yet to pass. 

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans want a minimum of $5 billion for the border wall. Many House Democrats don’t want any wall funding, while Senate Democrats have said they’re open to the $1.6 billion their chamber provided in its version of the DHS appropriations bill for “pedestrian fencing.”

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had been scheduled to meet with Trump on Tuesday to negotiate on the matter, but the meeting was delayed with former President George H.W. Bush lying in state. 

“We’ll meet with the president next week as we go forward to negotiate that,” Pelosi said Thursday. 

The fiscal 2018 omnibus Congress passed this spring included $1.6 billion for border security that would have allowed fencing as well. A continuing resolution for DHS would authorize that same amount to be spent in fiscal 2019. 

Pelosi said she would not interpret a DHS CR as allowing for continued construction of the border wall, saying the language does not provide for that.

“It’s immoral still, and we’re not going to pay for it,” Pelosi said. 

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A longtime aide to Sen. Kamala Harris resigned Wednesday after another news publication asked about a $400,000 sexual harassment and retaliation settlement stemming from his time working for the California Department of Justice.

The Sacramento Bee first reported this story.

Larry Wallace, a top aide to Harris in her Senate office in Sacramento, was the California Democrat’s director of the Law Enforcement Division when she was the state attorney general.

A spokeswoman for Harris said the senator did not know Wallace’s former executive assistant at the California DOJ had filed a lawsuit alleging “gender harassment” and retaliation against her for telling a superior about Wallace’s demeaning behavior.

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“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously. This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it,” Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams said in a statement.

Harris, widely seen as a potential challenger to President Donald Trump in 2020 if she can secure the Democratic nomination, has been one of the most outspoken politicians in the #MeToo movement.

She was one of the first senators to call on Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign after accusations of sexual misconduct against him last year.

“Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere,” Harris tweeted at the time, urging Franken’s resignation.

The plaintiff, Danielle Hartley, filed suit against the California DOJ in December of 2016, when Harris was still attorney general but was transitioning to the Senate to begin her first term. She took much of her senior staff with her, including Wallace.

Xavier Becerra, the new AG, settled the case for $400,000 in May 2017, less than five months later.

Shortly after being hired in 2011 to be Wallace’s assistant, “Hartley had concerns she was being harassed and demeaned due to her gender,” the lawsuit states. Wallace allegedly demanded that she crawl under his desk on a daily basis to add paper to the printer there and change its ink — often in front of other male executives from his division.

Hartley asked Wallace to move the printer so she would not have to crawl under his desk in skirts and shorts, the lawsuit states, but he refused.

The lawsuit also alleges that Wallace stripped Hartley of her professional duties, asking her to book flights for his children and wash his car for him instead — tasks that raised eyebrows among her coworkers, who made snide remarks to her.

When Hartley told her supervisor about the alleged harassment, the supervisor met with Wallace. After that meeting, the lawsuit alleges, Hartley was “set up to fail” by Wallace and eventually “told she should quit her job and seek employment elsewhere.”

The lawsuit details the psychological fallout Hartley experienced from her time working at the California DOJ, from depression to panic attacks.

It is unclear what kind of impact Wallace’s departure could have on Harris’ 2020 ambitions.

Harris has said she will decide over the holidays whether she will run for president in 2020.

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House Democrats will soon have a discussion about whether to subject their committee chairs to term limits, an idea that has long divided the caucus, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. 

“That’s a matter before the caucus,“ the California Democrat told reporters during her weekly news conference. “I’ve always been sympathetic to the concerns that have been expressed by our members on that subject.”

But Pelosi declined to stake out a position on the proposal, saying, “That’s a debate for the caucus to have, and we will have that.”

Republicans limit their committee leaders to serving three terms, regardless of whether that time is spent as chairman or ranking member. 

Democrats do not have any limit on how long their committee leaders can serve, which has led to some holding the top spot for years without an opportunity for other panel members to move up. Similar complaints have been lodged against Pelosi and her top two deputies in elected leadership, all of whom have been in leadership for more than a decade. 

Pelosi said incoming Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., has “received much interest” from members, particularly incoming freshmen, on the idea of term limits for committee leaders.

She said the caucus will have a discussion on the proposal but it is unclear whether it will be in the coming weeks or January. With the incoming freshmen no longer in town, any discussion held this month would have to include them by teleconference or something, Pelosi said. 

The Democratic leader's comments Thursday came after the Huffington Post reported Wednesday night that she offered to back the term limit proposal in a meeting with Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter, one of the Democrats who has been opposing her speaker bid. 

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