President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly has agreed to stay on until at least the 2020 presidential election at the request of Trump himself, White House officials told multiple news outlets Tuesday.
By announcing Trump’s request ― an apparent seal of approval for Kelly’s job performance ― the administration may have been attempting to quell perennial reports of Kelly’s demise and tensions with his boss.
Politico reported earlier this week that people close to Trump say the president doesn’t see the chief of staff’s role as necessary, with one official characterizing Kelly as “chief of staff in name only.”
Having just reached a year on the job, Kelly has outlasted a number of Trump administration officials — a low bar, given the endless revolving door of White House firings and departures that have contributed to a higher rate of staff turnover in Trump’s first year than in the first years of five previous presidential administrations.
So it’s worth taking Kelly’s announcement with a grain of salt. After all, we’ve been here before. Every few months, reports re-emerge about Kelly’s dissatisfaction with his job and potential resignation.
Soon after Kelly was brought on to “tame” Trump and bring “discipline” to the White House last summer after the departure of his predecessor Reince Priebus, Axios reported that he was “exhausted and dismayed” after Trump’s universally criticized statement equating white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. Trump’s refusal to condemn the hate groups responsible for the violence “threw [Kelly] for a loop,” according to The Daily Beast.
There was also widespread speculation that Kelly would quit after the fallout over former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned after his two ex-wives accused him of domestic abuse. Kelly reportedly knew about the allegations but kept Porter on the job anyway. White House officials disastrously tried to defend the situation with ever-changing explanations.
But scandals on Kelly’s watch aren’t the only problem. Job security for Trump’s staffers always seems to depend on the whims of their mercurial boss. Trump may praise a person one day, only to rant about them on Twitter the next day. As chief of staff, Kelly seems particularly vulnerable to Trump’s ire, someone convenient for the president to throw under the bus.
2020 is a long time from now. So despite Kelly’s assurances that he’s in it for the long haul, it seems certain that several months from now, or even sooner, we’ll be here again, reading the next report that an embattled Kelly is angry at the president and reportedly wants out.