Kelly likely to exit White House over Porter abuse scandal
White House chief of staff John Kelly was installed to curtail the chaos, defuse the drama and straighten out an unruly West Wing hampered by a constant stream of distractions.
But the retired Marine general has found himself at the center of more than one crisis in the past seven months and now faces new pressure as questions swirl about his defense of an ex-aide accused of abusing his two ex-wives.
The uproar over that, and a speechwriter who also quit after reports of domestic violence became public, have led to calls for Kelly’s resignation — an offer he has reportedly made. Experts question how much longer he’ll stay by President Trump’s side.
The aftershocks of White House staff secretary Rob Porter and speechwriter David Sorensen’s resignations in the past week reverberated amid concerns about access to classified information and how long senior staff knew about Porter’s exes’ claims of violent abuse.
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Porter worked closely with Kelly and was a member of Trump’s inner circle. Trump says he only found out about the allegations over the past week.
Kelly’s mishandling of the situation has experts doubting he’ll last much longer in a White House renowned for high turnover. Trump has already begun floating possible names of replacements among his advisers, according to multiple reports.
“If he makes it to 2019, either Trump has changed or John Kelly is Superman in a general’s outfit,” Scott Talan, a communications professor at American University, told the Daily News.
A West Wing shakeup seems likely, Talan added, noting reports that communication director Hope Hicks has been dating Porter and White House counsel Don McGahn knew of the allegations against the Oval Office gatekeeper since last January.
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But Kelly, 67, took the brunt of the blame after releasing conflicting statements about the situation, praising Porter as a “man of true integrity and honor” and presenting staffers with a bogus timeline of events on Friday.
A day earlier, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah offered reporters a rare candid take on the situation — admitting that mistakes were made in the handling of Porter’s resignation.
“I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation,” he said.
Porter was reportedly encouraged by Kelly to keep his job, even after a graphic photo of one of his former spouses sporting a black eye was made public. The President fumed as scandal once again enveloped the White House, this time ensnaring the former Department of Homeland Security secretary he made his right-hand man.
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Trump even called up Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus, to vent.
It’s not the first time the former four-star general has found himself courting controversy since becoming chief of staff.
The Boston native joined the White House in July, replacing Priebus, after serving as Trump’s Homeland Security czar.
He joined the Marines in 1970 and retired in 2016 after helming the U.S. southern command, where he oversaw a large swath of the military including Guantanemo Bay.
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Kelly’s son, Robert, a first lieutenant in the Marines, was killed in conbat in Afghanistan in 2010.
Kelly promised to impose military-style discipline in a West Wing bogged down by infighting and an impulsive President quick to unleash hair-trigger tweets.
He set the tone by firing Anthony Scaramucci just 10 days after Trump hired the tough-talking communications director.
“No WH chaos!” Trump tweeted hours earlier.
But Kelly’s tenure was quickly embroiled in tumult.
A dejected-looking chief of staff stood by, his head in his hands, as Trump defended “both sides” after a woman was killed at a white nationalist rally in Virginia in August.
He then offended many by claiming that a “lack of ability to compromise” led to the Civil War and defended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man.”
Kelly also forcefully attacked a Florida congresswoman over insensitive remarks she said Trump made to a soldier’s grieving widow. And he then refused to apologize after video evidence discredited a negative story he told about the lawmaker.
He also said women were no longer treated as “sacred” at the same free-wheeling October briefing.
“Women were sacred and looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we’ve seen from recent cases.”
Trump has bristled at Kelly’s handing of immigration negotiations on Capitol Hill.
According to reports, the chief of staff told Democratic lawmakers the President was “uninformed” during the campaign when he promised a wall stretching the length of the nation’s border with Mexico.
He also said Trump had “evolved in the way he looks at things.”
The President lashed out on Twitter, saying his plan had “never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”
Just last week, Kelly drew condemnation for saying some immigrants were “too lazy to get off their asses” and register for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I have my doubts about him going forward,” Bart Rossi, a political psychologist, told The News when asked about Kelly’s future amid the Porter scandal.
Calls for Kelly’s ouster came quickly as several lawmakers asked the White House for answers.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who served as President Bill Clinton’s staff secretary, called for a full investigation.
“This news is troubling for a number of reasons,” he said. “I am sickened by Mr. Porter’s actions and my heart goes out to these women and their families.”
In a letter to the House oversight committee, Maloney asked for a formal inquiry into the events surrounding Porter’s employment.
“Trump really doesn’t like anybody that gets into difficulty or trouble. And it’s pretty obvious that Kelly is in trouble,” Rossi said. “Trump doesn’t like anything that’s not going his way.”