US Chief of Staff John Kelly looks on as US President Donald Trump meets with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC...
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

Kelly not the only staffer reportedly questioning Trump’s intellect

As much of the country marvels at the dysfunction and instability of Donald Trump’s White House, it’s only natural to wonder about the perspectives of those who work closely with the president. Are they able to recognize some of Trump’s more alarming qualities?

By some accounts, yes. NBC News reported yesterday on comments White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has made behind the scenes insulting the president’s intelligence.

[Kelly] has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments. […]

“He doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot,” Kelly said in one meeting, according to two officials who were present. “We’ve got to save him from himself.”

The chief of staff strongly denied the allegations – he called the report “total BS” and issued a statement calling the reporting “pathetic” – though there is ample evidence that Trump has been alarmingly confused about the most basic details of DACA.

The NBC News report added that Kelly has also made disparaging comments about the president to members of Congress, “at times making fun of what he sees as Trump’s lack of knowledge about policy and government, current and former officials said.”

This is obviously just a brief excerpt and the whole NBC News piece is well worth your time, but one of the things that stood out for me in the reporting is how familiar the allegations seemed.

For example, at a July meeting at the Pentagon, then-Secretary of State reportedly said in front of several officials that he thinks the president is a “moron.”

About a month after those reports surfaced, BuzzFeed reported on a private dinner at which then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster allegedly mocked Trump’s intellect, describing him as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner.”

It’s worth emphasizing that each of these reports faced significant pushback from members of the president’s team, despite the multiple sources that the news organizations relied on.

Nevertheless, taken together, the reports suggest that it’s not just members of the American electorate who have concerns about Donald Trump’s capacity to do his job well. Evidently, some of those who’ve worked closely with the president have drawn the same conclusions.