In an interview with former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci ― whom Kelly canned on his first day on the job ― Kelly suggested Trump’s behavior in office proves Americans have to be more rigorous about whom they choose as their president.
“I think we need to look harder at who we elect,” he said. “I think we should look at people that are running for office and put them through the filter: What is their character like? What are their ethics?”
Kelly also agreed with Trump’s former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that the president shouldn’t be sending in active-duty troops to stop peaceful protests and feared the current polarization is reaching its breaking point.
“There is a concern, I think an awful big concern, that the partisanship has gotten out of hand, the tribal thing has gotten out of hand,” Kelly said.
Kelly told Scaramucci that if he were still chief of staff, he would have argued against using force to clear out Lafayette Square so that Trump could do a photo-op at a nearby church.
“I would’ve argued against it, recommended against it,” Kelly said. “I would argue that the end result of that was predictable.”
But Kelly momentarily seemed at a loss for words when Scaramucci asked him if the president was indeed the “very stable genius” he proclaims himself to be.
After a pregnant pause, he declined to comment on the president’s mental state.
“Um, he’s — what’s a genius? I don’t know what that is,” Kelly said. “He is, as I say, when I was there working the staff process, more often than not, he didn’t like the recommendations. More often than not, he followed the recommendations. ... But I don’t think I should comment on — I’m not qualified to comment on stable or unstable or whatever.”
Although Trump’s critics might appreciate Kelly’s slightly vague criticism, it should be noted that he was also a controversial administration figure.
Before becoming chief of staff in July 2017, Kelly served as Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security, where he oversaw the administration’s immigration crackdown.
During his stint as chief of staff, Kelly praised Confederate general Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man”; claimed Trump’s proposed immigration policy would help some undocumented immigrants who were previously “too lazy” to seek protections; and called former staff secretary Rob Porter a “man of true integrity” despite abuse allegations from Porter’s two ex-wives.
You can watch the lengthy interview below: