As best as we can tell, the conversation in the White House started as a policy discussion about border security. As NBC News reported, it didn’t end that way.
The differences escalated to an angry, profanity-laced exchange on Thursday between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton as a Honduran migrant caravan of roughly 4,000 people approaches the U.S. border. The dispute was so heated, according to several people, that Kelly ended up storming out of the White House shortly afterward.
NBC News spoke to four people familiar with what transpired, who agreed that the meeting began with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen explaining a recent increase in border crossings, which led John Bolton to blame her for failing to do more. Kelly sided with Nielsen, telling Bolton he failed to appreciate the substantive challenges.
According to three people familiar with the exchange, Kelly repeatedly used the f-word to punctuate his points. These people said Kelly, who had served as Trump’s first Secretary of Homeland Security, fiercely defended Nielsen, who has come under fire from Trump over her handling of the border.
The advisers then went into the Oval Office to discuss the matter with the president. Kelly ultimately stormed out of the White House early with no resolution on the issue, these people said.
“I’m f—ng out of here,” Kelly said, according to one person briefed on the exchange. The
Trump later told reporters he “had not heard about” the profanity-laced White House argument, which, like so much of what the president says, seems very hard to believe.
By all accounts, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was not part of the dispute, but she nevertheless issued an official statement that read in part, “While we are passionate about solving the issue of illegal immigration, we are not angry at one another. However, we are furious at the failure of Congressional Democrats to help us address this growing crisis. They should be ashamed…”
So let me get this straight, the White House chief of staff and the White House national security adviser screamed at each other, and Sanders wants to blame Democrats – the only folks in D.C. with no power, who have offered Trump six different bipartisan compromises on immigration, each of which included border-security measures?
Trump recently told Olivia Nuzzi about his White House, “There is no chaos. The media likes to portray chaos. There’s no chaos.” John Kelly added soon after, “There is, to the best of my knowledge, no chaos in this building.”
When the president’s national security adviser is lashing out at the Homeland Security adviser, the president’s chief of staff says, “I’m f—ng out of here” after a profanity-laced tirade at the national security adviser, and the president pretends not to know what’s happening in his own West Wing, I think it’s safe to say there’s some “chaos.”