When he was nominated to be Trump’s chief of staff last July, John Kelly was hailed by commentators as the man who would rein in the US president, imposing a bit of military order and decorum on a chaotic White House. Less than a year later, it looks like Kelly himself could use a bit of restraint.
According to NBC News, the former military general has insulted the president’s intelligence in the presence of White House staffers, and painted himself as America’s last defense against a president-led catastrophe.
Several sources interviewed by the publication shared comments that they attributed to Kelly, including “[Trump] doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot,” and “We’ve got to save him from himself.” According to their accounts, Kelly also boasted about his influence, saying, “If it weren’t for me, the president was going to agree to some hasty deal.”
Kelly’s statements have also been reported as consistently diminishing of women; NBC’s sources say that he suggested publicly that women are more emotional than men, even in front of the president.
Kelly is also rumored to have pushed his staff members to lie about Rob Porter’s ousting from the White House. According to James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty, Kelly also considered resigning after Comey was fired, which he described as “dishonorable.”
Kelly has denied the accounts via a message released by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. “I spend more time with the President than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” he wrote. “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS.”
Kelly described the story as a baseless attack on the presidency, writing: “This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”