John Kelly intends to stay as White House chief of staff until 2020 amid speculation he could leave soon, a White House official confirmed Tuesday.
The retired Marine Corps four-star general was initially viewed as a savior last year when he became Trump’s second chief of staff, with members of both parties predicting he would bring order and experience to a chaotic and green staff — and commander in chief.
The Wall Street Journal first reported his desire to stay.
That has not always been the case. Kelly did bring more of a daily flow to the White House and has pared the number days when the president and his aides veer off message. But he has not ended the days when a presidential tweet or comment overshadows the White House message of the day or other positive news.
What’s more, the president was furious with how Kelly handled domestic abuse allegations against former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who stepped down after Kelly defended him multiple times. That led a Trump spokesman to do something rare: admit the staff made mistakes in handling the situation.
Kelly has relationships on Capitol Hill from his days as a Marine and Homeland Security secretary, but they have not delivered a sweeping immigration overhaul he and the president desire.
He also has taken criticism from Democrats over his immigration rhetoric. Many political observers and Democratic members of Congress have been taken aback by his siding with White House immigration hardliners like aide Stephen Miller.
The addition of former Fox News executive Bill Shine also fueled speculation Kelly might leave. Shine’s influence was palpable in situations like the White House decision last week to ban a CNN reporter from an open press event with Trump after the president objected to her questions during an earlier photo op.
Trump has used tweets and public remarks to declare Kelly is doing a good job. On Tuesday, he praised Kelly in the Oval Office at the swearing-in of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.
“General Kelly, who, by the way, one year today, right, he became my chief of staff,” Trump said of the anniversary. “Gen. Kelly, John Kelly, in case of anybody’s never heard of him.”
And on April 30, an NBC News report surfaced, citing eight former or current White House staffers, that Kelly once called Trump an “idiot” and frequently questions the chief executive’s intelligence.
The White House pushed back, with Kelly calling it “total BS” in a statement released after the article was published.
“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” Kelly said.