White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will be out of work “by the end of the year,” according to President Donald Trump.
The New York Times reports that Kelly’s departure is part of a “planned staff shakeup” and does not come as a surprise to the retired General, hired initially to bring a sense of calm and order to a West Wing that seemed uncontrollably chaotic in the first few months of the Trump administration.
The parting, though, is mutual; reports say Trump has wanted Kelly to move on for some time, and Kelly now feels he’s no longer useful in organizing the White House staff, having done all he can to impose a sense of order in Trump’s administration.
“John Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring,’” the president told reporters during the annual Army-Navy game Saturday. “But he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.”
Kelly’s replacement is already waiting in the wings.
“Mr. Trump has settled on Nick Ayers, a youthful but experienced political operative who serves as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, as his top choice to replace Mr. Kelly, people familiar with the matter said,” according to the NYT. “In Mr. Ayers, Mr. Trump sees what Mr. Kelly, a career military officer, was not: a wily political operative whose focus would be on politics and campaigning as the president looks toward his re-election bid.”
Ayers is expected to serve only on an interim basis, however, while the White House finds a more suitable long-term replacement to take them through the 2020 campaign season. That’s a natural transition, though. Each White House has made big changes ahead of a re-election effort in order to withstand the intense criticism leveled during heated political battles, and to manage a more temporary flow of employees, many of whom will leave to join the president’s re-election campaign, to be replaced by newer, greener staffers.
Kelly’s departure is also no surprise, least of all to Kelly. The White House Chief of Staff has been working — sometimes unconvincingly — to assure nervous media and lawmakers that he had complete control in the White House and that he had no plans to leave his post for at least the last six months.
But even if it was an expected staff shift, it doesn’t make it any less nerve-wracking for prominent Republicans,
Outgoing Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) tweeted his goodbyes on Saturday.
“Our country is better for his duty at the White House. During this time he has become a dear friend and trusted partner,” Ryan wrote on social media. “He was a force for order, clarity, and good sense. He is departing what is often a thankless job, but John Kelly has my eternal gratitude.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has been a surprisingly vocal critic of the president this weekend, expressed concern that a moderating force was departing the White House, leaving inevitable chaos in his wake.
“It depends who they put in as a replacement,” Rubio told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning. “Hopefully it will be someone just as qualified, just as strong. It’s good for our country to have someone like that in that post.”
Kelly is expected to release a statement detailing the specifics of his departure on Monday.