Current Chief of Staff John Kelly, who replaced Reince Priebus, was brought into the White House for one main reason: To impose discipline and order on a West Wing that had become a circus under Priebus.
In particular, Kelly became Trump’s gatekeeper, determining who could and who couldn’t have access to the president. Family and friends had to go through Kelly if they wanted to speak with Trump or run an idea past him.
But now, it seems, Trump is finding ways around Kelly’s stifling discipline, and The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump may be undermining Kelly in the process:
“The president on occasion has called White House aides to the private residence in the evening, where he makes assignments and asks them not tell Mr. Kelly about the plans, according to several people familiar with the matter. At least once, aides have declined to carry out the requested task so as not to run afoul of Mr. Kelly, one of these people said.”
Trump is also using his wife, Melania, as a sort of shadow gatekeeper by which people who have been blocked by Kelly can still get information to the president:
“Some of his friends have taken to calling Melania Trump and asking her to pass messages to her husband, according to two people familiar with the matter. They say that since she arrived in the White House from New York in the summer, the first lady has taken on a more central role as a political adviser to the president.
“‘If I don’t want to wait 24 hours for a call from the president, getting to Melania is much easier.'”
A spokesperson for the First Lady called the Journal report about her helping those who want to make contact with the president “fake news.”
How is the relationship between Trump and Kelly? According to those in the know, the two seem to tolerate each other despite their differences:
“‘Kelly is too much of a general, and Trump is too much Trump,’ one White House official said. But Mr. Trump continues to hold Mr. Kelly in high regard, these people say. He frequently calls out Mr. Kelly during his public appearances.”
Will Kelly continue to allow Trump to subvert the actions he’s taken to restore order to the West Wing? That remains to be seen.
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