John Kelly will leave his post as White House chief of staff by the end of the year, President Donald Trump told reporters Saturday. The announcement follows months of speculation that his tumultuous time in the Trump administration was drawing to a close.
Trump appointed Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, in July 2017 to replace Reince Priebus, who resigned as chief of staff after just six months in office. Kelly, 68, had been serving as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security at the time.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had applauded Kelly’s appointment as chief of staff, hoping his record of discipline could rein in the chaos that plagued the White House during Priebus’ tenure.
But Kelly’s reputation as a levelheaded straight shooter, earned over a decadeslong career in the military, began to erode within months of his installation, and his no-nonsense attitude did little to slow the revolving door of Trump administration officials.
Kelly reportedly offered to resign or threatened to quit his role several times before his departure.
Here’s a look back at the most memorable moments of his White House tenure:
October 2017: Bashes Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)
Kelly came to Trump’s defense in October 2017 after Wilson slammed the president for telling the wife of a fallen soldier that her husband “must’ve known what he signed up for.”
Kelly, whose son died serving in Afghanistan, told reporters that his son’s commanding officer had said something similar.
“He knew what he was getting himself into,” Kelly said, quoting his son’s commanding officer. “It was exactly where he wanted to be. That was the message.”
He then attacked Wilson as “selfish” and falsely accused her of trying to take credit for securing federal funding for a new FBI building in Miramar, Florida, during its 2015 dedication ceremony.
In fact, Wilson drew bipartisan praise at the ceremony for pushing through legislation naming the buildings after two deceased FBI agents. Video of the event obtained by the Sun-Sentinel showed Wilson had taken credit for making sure the buildings were named after the agents ― not for securing funding.
Days later, Kelly told Fox News that he would “never” apologize to Wilson.
October 2017: Calls Robert E. Lee an “honorable man”
Kelly faced instant backlash after describing the Confederate general as an “honorable man” and blaming the Civil War on a failure to “compromise.” The primary catalyst for the war was slavery, according to most historians.
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly had told Fox News. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today.”
“The lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand,” he added.
January: Criticizes Trump’s border wall promise
Kelly told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that Trump wasn’t “fully informed” when he promised voters during his 2016 presidential campaign that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected.
“I can confirm that Chief of Staff Kelly said today that the President’s campaign was not fully informed about the wall he was promising to voters,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who was present for the meeting, said in a statement.
“Kelly went on to say that many campaigns are not fully informed about every policy and that campaigning and governing are two different things and that governing is harder,” Gutiérrez added.
Kelly’s comments reportedly infuriated Trump, who tweeted that he “has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”
February: Calls some Dreamers “too lazy” to apply for DACA
Immigrant communities and their allies were incensed when Kelly claimed Trump’s proposed immigration policy was generous because it would help some undocumented immigrants who may have previously been “too lazy” to seek protections.
Trump had said he would support a path to citizenship for the 690,000 people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, as well as for anyone who is eligible for the program but didn’t sign up. The White House estimates that’s 1.8 million people total.
“The difference between 690 [thousand] and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up,” Kelly said, according to The Washington Post.
He doubled down on his comments later in the day, telling reporters that people “just should have probably gotten off the couch and signed up.”
February: Defends Rob Porter amid domestic abuse allegations
Kelly reportedly offered his resignation to Trump after a series of missteps in handling domestic abuse allegations against then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
Multiple media outlets reported that Kelly knew about a protective order against Porter well before the aide resigned over allegations that he had abused his two ex-wives. On the day of Porter’s resignation, Kelly released a glowing statement about him, crafted in part by then-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who was romantically involved with Porter at the time.
“Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly wrote. “He is a friend, a confidante, and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”
March: Jokes that “God punished me” when he became Trump’s chief of staff
While speaking at an event marking the 15th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kelly told the crowd that he missed serving as the head of the agency before being appointed as White House chief of staff.
“The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of homeland security,” Kelly had said. “But I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess.”
The audience laughed, but, given speculation around Kelly’s potential departure, others wondered if there was an undercurrent of truth in his remarks.
June: Reportedly calls White House a “miserable place to work”
Kelly told a group of senators visiting the White House that it was a “miserable place to work,” reported The New York Times, which noted that the chief of staff had been questioning how much longer he could stay in the role.
August: Omarosa leaks audio of Kelly firing her
Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman released a tape she secretly recorded of Kelly firing her last year in the executive mansion’s Situation Room.
Kelly can be heard telling Manigault Newman that he had become aware of some “pretty significant integrity issues,” alluding to a “pretty serious offense” that would, if she were a member of the military, spur a court-martial.
″We’re not suggesting any legal action here,” Kelly said. “But... it would be a pretty serious offense.” He added that he hoped her exit would be a “friendly departure.”
“And then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation,” he said.
Manigault Newman said she interpreted that as an “obvious threat.”
October: Accused of calling Elizabeth Warren an “impolite arrogant woman” in a past email
Kelly attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a private email exchange with his top aide in February 2017, calling her an “impolite arrogant woman,” reported BuzzFeed.
“Absolutely most insulting conversation I have ever had with anyone,” Kelly, then serving as the secretary of homeland security, wrote of a telephone conversation with Warren in an email obtained by BuzzFeed.
“What an impolite arrogant woman,” he continued. “She immediately began insulting our people accusing them of not following the court order, insulting and abusive behavior towards those covered by the pause, blah blah blah.”
Warren later tweeted that she had been “tough” on Kelly but that “there’s nothing impolite about people’s right to speak out and hold their government accountable.”