White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told White House staff in a Friday meeting that there would be no more dismissals at this time, according to The Hill.
The news follows a wild week of firings and speculation over who’s neck is on the block – following the abrupt ouster of Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson and his assistant.
“The chief of staff actually spoke to a number of staff this morning, reassuring them that there were no immediate personnel changes at this time and that people shouldn’t be concerned, that we should do exactly what we do everyday, and that’s come to work and do the best job we can,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
“That’s exactly what we’re doing and exactly what we’re focused on.”
The Friday announcement comes on the heels of a report by the Washington Post late Thursday that Trump was firing national security adviser H.R. McMaster – and would reportedly be looking for a “soft landing spot” for the three-star general in a position where he could earn his fourth star.
Sanders tamped down that rumor at the Friday briefing, telling reporters “he president said that it was not accurate and he had no intention of changing and that they have a great working relationship and he looked forward to continuing to work with him.”
“Our focus is not on a lot of the news stories you would like us to be focused on,” Sanders told reporters. “We’re actually focused on what the American people want us to do. That’s to come here, to do our jobs. General McMaster is a dedicated public servant and he is here not focused on the news stories that many of you are writing but on some really big issues, things like North Korea, Russia, Iran. That’s what he’s doing. And that’s what we’ll continue to be focused on every single day we show up for work.”
Looks like that was fake news from WaPo
Is Trump a leaker?
Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports that John Kelly told reporters in an off-the-record briefing that President Trump is “likely speculating about staff moves to people outside the White House and that reporters are then talking to those people. And that’s how a good deal of news is likely being made about all the possible replacements.”
What we’re hearing:
Kelly acknowledged to the reporters it’s likely that Trump is talking to people outside the White House and that reporters are then talking to those people. Kelly cast Trump’s own conversations as a significant contributing factor to stories about the staff changes. (Kelly was making the point that he’s not around for a lot of Trump’s conversations so can’t be sure what he’s telling people over the phone.)
Kelly disputed the reports about H.R. McMaster imminently leaving the White House. He said there are no active plans to replace him, and added that it would be great if the Army gave McMaster a 4th star.
Kelly also defended HUD Sec. Ben Carson, who is under pressure for spending $31,000 on a furniture set. Kelly said $31,000 sounds like a lot of money, but to put it in context he asked a reporter how much they think the chair they’re sitting on costs. Kelly said it’s probably worth hundreds of dollars but it will last a long time. He rationalized Carson’s $31,000 outlay by saying the table could last for 80 or 100 years. Kelly was pressed on whether the President was going to fire Carson. He made a military analogy. He said whenever he makes a decision, he makes sure that it’s legally permissible and from that line he takes five paces back — to allow for optics, ethical and other considerations. Kelly said he wants all decision-making across government to be like that and the impression reporters were left with was that Carson is not going to be fired.
Kelly said he has been telling Trump that Jeff Sessions is doing a good job. Kelly went above and beyond to defend Sessions, and told the president that the press only reports about 3% of what he does.
He said Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray are also doing good jobs.
Kelly also said that Larry Kudlow’s past cocaine habit won’t be a problem for his security clearance, as it is public knowledge. Kelly joked that the 1990s were “a crazy time.” –Axios
It would seem counterintuitive for Trump to purposefully project an image of chaos within the White House. Then again, maybe it’s all part of the show.