Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly disses report he called boss ‘an idiot’

John Kelly might still survive this new controversy and his quick and summary dismissal of the NBC News report might help

world Updated: May 01, 2018 22:12 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,John Kelly,White House
US President Donald Trump with Chief of Staff John Kelly (AFP File)

The White House has been hit by another firestorm triggered by a senior aide’s public exasperation and dim view of President Donald Trump, with a news report saying that chief of staff John Kelly has called his boss, the president, “an idiot” multiple times.

Kelly, who is a former US marine corps general, considers himself a check on the famously erratic president with a questionable grasp on policy and has called Trump “an idiot” to underscore that point, NBC News reported on Monday, citing multiple White House staffers.

Kelly reacted swiftly, calling the report “total BS ”.

“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” Kelly said in a statement provided by the White House. “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS… This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”

The report also suggested the chief of staff holds that women are generally more emotional than men, and he said so once in the president’s presence.

President Trump lashed out in an angry tweet in which he did not mention the NBC report but said “Fake News is going crazy making up false stories…they are totally unhinged, and the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying.”

The last time a senior administration official was reported was in 2017 when NBC News had reported that the secretary of state Rex Tillerson had called the president a “moron”. A stung Trump had challenged him to an IQ contest in jest, but never really overcame the slight. Tillerson was fired during a foreign trip in March.

Kelly’s influence and position in the Whit House has also waned in recent months and reports have suggested Trump is not happy with his second chief of staff (the first was Reince Priebus) and has been annoyed by a perception that Kelly keeps his worst instincts and urges under check.

Kelly arrived to a chaotic White House, after Priebus’s exit, that allowed walk-in access to the president to a number of aides and family members such as daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kelly stopped that and instructed everyone to go through his office, and also sought to control the kind of information reaching the president.

Trump has chafed against the chains, publicly upbraided the chief of staff for saying his position had evolved on the proposed wall along the border with Mexico. And Kelly suffered a significant hit for mishandling the firing of a senior White House aide accused of assault by his former wives.

Kelly might still survive this new controversy and his quick and summary dismissal of the NBC News report might help —Tillerson never fully and decidedly distanced himself from the “moron” remarks — but speculation about an imminent exits from the White House have tended to come true, in time.

First Published: May 01, 2018 16:25 IST