Despite the shrinking supply of life boats, John Kelly still hasn’t quit his post on the Titanic, but according to reports out late last month, he’s close to abandoning ship. It’s just a matter of time – or, perhaps more appropriately, a matter of timing.
Kelly’s stint as Chief of Staff has been regrettable, to say the least. He should have resigned on any number of occasions. For instance, he should have resigned when Trump used his son as figurative cannon fodder in October after the President inexplicably accused former Presidents (including W.) of not calling the families of fallen soldiers. Later that week, Trump inadvertently offended the widow of a serviceman killed in Niger, kicking off a truly absurd war of words between the President of the United States on one side and a grieving widow (plus Frederica Wilson) on the other. Kelly not only allowed himself to get drawn into the debate, but in fact defended Trump at a truly sad (and wildly absurd) press conference.
Kelly has of course found himself at the center of all manner of contentious issues since then and while his military service will mean he isn’t likely to lose all credibility with Americans no matter what happens, his reputation has suffered grievous blow after grievous blow.
This year, he’s been notably absent from the public eye (presumably because his influence at 1600 Penn. is now de minimis) but he did accompany Trump on the President’s romp through Europe. On the very first day of that trip, Kelly was forced to look on in silence as Trump accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia. He (Kelly) was visibly distraught. Have a look:
Again, that was on the first day of the trip. Things would get immeasurably worse from there, as the President threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO, endorsed Boris Johnson for U.K. Prime Minister, called the interview in which he championed Johnson “fake news” the very next day, trampled all over decorum when meeting with Queen Elizabeth, characterized the European Union as a “foe” of the United States and, in the coup de covfefe, deferred to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in a press conference that was decried by lawmakers and intelligence officials who almost universally agree that Monday marked something of a historic nadir in U.S. soft power.
Well, according to the latest from Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, Trump was aghast at the severity of the backlash he got from both sides of the aisle and from the media following the summit. Even John Bolton was apparently not enamored with his boss.
For his part, John Kelly was “irate”, according to Sherman, who describes a concerted effort on the part of the Chief of Staff to prompt Republicans to rebuke the President.
To with, from Vanity Fair:
According to a source, he told Trump it would make things worse for him with Robert Mueller. He also exerted pressure to try to get the president to walk back his remarks. According to three sources familiar with the situation, Kelly called around to Republicans on Capitol Hill and gave them the go-ahead to speak out against Trump.
Another Republican source who spoke to Sherman described the mood in the West Wing as particularly dour, even by this administration’s standards. “This was the nightmare scenario,” Sherman quotes the source as saying.
Needless to say, Trump’s bungled effort to “explain” things on Tuesday was anything but reassuring.