The controversy surrounding former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter is important for a variety of reasons, but one of the angles that’s likely to be the most consequential is the fact that officials appear to have turned on Chief of Staff John Kelly in a dramatic way.
The L.A. Times reported this week, for example, “Over and over again the past few days, various White House aides have buttonholed reporters to tell them – anonymously – that they think Kelly either lied to them or tried to get them to lie about what he knew when.” Axios had an item that described the Porter mess as “the Kelly cover-up.”
A Washington Post report published overnight painted an even bleaker picture:
…Kelly does not enjoy the confidence of an increasing number of his subordinates, some of whom said they believe that the retired four-star Marine Corps general has misled them.
Kelly is “a big fat liar,” said one White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. “To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”
Reince Priebus did not necessarily command broad respect during his tenure in the West Wing, but we didn’t see quotes like these during his time as the president’s chief of staff.
It’s not a sustainable dynamic.
For his part, Trump has not only vented his frustrations about Kelly’s performance, he’s also begun “speculating about potential replacements,” and a short list of possible successors has apparently emerged.
The retired general’s troops no longer appear to be following his lead.