Top White House Aides Dismiss Rumors That Trump Is Seeking to Replace John Kelly

Slate Politics 7 months ago

Several big names in the Trump White House came out in full force Sunday to defend chief of staff John Kelly and dismiss talk that the president was seeking to replace the retired Marine general. Budget director Mick Mulvaney seemed to have the best talking point ready, discussing speculation about Kelly’s departure as “much ado about nothing” in Fox News Sunday. Mulvaney, long seen as a possible replacement for Kelly said he had “absolutely not” been approached about replacing him. “I think all the stories about replacing Gen.
Kelly are from people who are unhappy they’ve lost access to the president,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney was hardly alone. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also delivered a message she said came straight from the president regarding his continuing confidence in his chief of staff. “I spoke to the president last night. I told him I would be with you today. And he said, please tell Jake that I have full faith in chief of staff John Kelly and that I’m not actively searching for replacements. He said, I saw that all over the news today. I have faith in him,” Conway said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short also espoused the same message on NBC’s Meet the Press, noting that Trump “has absolute confidence in John Kelly.” Short also denied reports that Kelly had offered his resignation. “John Kelly knows that he serves at the pleasure of the president,” Short said. “And he will step aside any time the president doesn’t want him to be there. But John Kelly has not offered his resignation. John Kelly is doing an outstanding job.”

The three Trump aides also defended the White House response to the allegations, referring to it as natural to come to the defense of someone you know. “When you’ve been working with somebody for a year,” Short said, “your first instinct is to say that doesn’t match up with the person I know inside our office. But that doesn’t mean that once you learn that actual extent of the allegations, that you have any tolerance for it. And Gen. Kelly had no tolerance for it.”

Mulvaney, for his part, said it was normal for Trump and Kelly to give Porter the benefit of the doubt, highlighting that once further proof was put forward, “he was gone almost immediately.” Speaking on CBS, Mulvaney denied that the White House has a “lax attitude” toward domestic abuse. “I think what you saw happened this week … was completely reasonable and normal,” he said. “The president had someone working for him who came to him and said, ‘Look, I’ve been accused of this, I’ve been falsely accused of this. Please don’t believe it, it’s not true.’ If your cameraman came to you, you would give that person the benefit of the doubt or at least you would want to do that because you know that person and you trust that person.”

Conway, for her part, said she has “no reason not to believe” the women who came forward with the allegations.

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