Even Trump's former chief of staff seems to have no use for Trump

It's no small thing that the man who served at Trump's right hand for 17 months seems increasing opposed to his former boss and Team Trump's agenda.
Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP
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 on February 2, 2018.ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

In the year following John Kelly's departure from Donald Trump's White House, where the retired Marine general served as the president's chief of staff for 17 months, he said very little about his former boss and place of employment.

That's clearly starting to change. The Atlantic published a report overnight on Kelly's appearance at Drew University last night, where he was willing to share more than a few candid thoughts about current events.

Over a 75-minute speech and [Q-and-A] session, Kelly laid out, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump's words and actions regarding North Korea, illegal immigration, military discipline, Ukraine, and the news media.

The list of Kelly's misgivings about Trump and the White House agenda was not short. The retired general, who also led the Department of Homeland Security in the president's first year, made clear he had a problem with Trump's actions against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. And Trump's intervention in the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, an accused war criminal. And Trump's Ukraine extortion scheme. And Trump's policy toward North Korea. And Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. And Trump's anti-journalist rhetoric.

The Atlantic's report added, "At times Wednesday, Kelly sounded like the anti-Trump."

It wasn't the first time. As we discussed two weeks ago, Kelly also took former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton's side when the president went after him. Soon after, Kelly publicly criticized Senate Republicans for not going further to scrutinize the president's illegal extortion scheme as part of Trump's impeachment trial.

It's no small thing that the man who served at Trump's right hand in the White House for 17 months seems increasing opposed to his former boss and Team Trump's agenda. Kelly, perhaps more than any official alive, knows exactly how the president operates. He has a unique perspective, coming to terms with Trump's governing style -- I use the phrase loosely -- after seeing it up close, every day for nearly a year and a half.

By all appearances, Kelly did not come away from the experience with a great deal of respect or admiration for the amateur in the Oval Office.

As we discussed the last time Kelly made public remarks like these, the president hasn't yet responded -- some tweets are probably inevitable -- though the last time Kelly expressed some concerns about Team Trump, the White House issued an official statement with a decidedly North Korean flare.

"I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in October.