Today White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was the surprise guest. He talked about a lot of subjects, like explaining why President Trump’s tweets about Puerto Rico did not signify any end of support for Puerto Rico, but he was obviously there to talk about the climate in the White House and to follow up on Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s statement from yesterday.
This is the whole video.
This is his introduction
Good afternoon, good to be here. A couple of comments, I guess, then open it up to Q&A. I have to tell you that coming into the job as chief of staff I have decided to not do too much with the press until I get my feet on the ground and figure out what base I’m on on any given day. Prior to this, when I was at DHS and certainly when I was a Marine general officer, I interacted with the press a great deal. But coming into this job I really needed to get to know the lay. I think I’ve done three off-the-records, the first one which was, of course, violated. But thank you for all of you that didn’t violate the trust from those off-the-record periods.
I would just offer to you, though I read it all the time, pretty consistently, I’m not quitting today. I don’t believe, and I just talked to the President, I don’t think I’m being fired today. And I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving. I would tell you this is the hardest job I’ve ever had. This is, in my view, the most important job I’ve ever had. I would offer, though, it is not the best job I ever had. The best job I’ve ever had, as I’ve said many times, was when I was an enlisted Marine sergeant, infantryman, that was the best job I ever had. So, unless things change, I’m not quitting, I’m not getting fired, and I don’t think I’ll fire anyone tomorrow.
Kelly went on to make some more observations:
The former Marine general and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security told reporters that his “only frustration” was reading news that is “just not true.”
“My only frustration, with all respect to people in the room, is to come to work and read about things I allegedly said or Mr. Trump allegedly said and it’s just not true,” Kelly said, echoing the president’s “fake news” mantra. “And I mean no disrespect to you all.”
Kelly went on to address reports that he is having trouble ‘controlling’ the president, saying he was “not brought to this job to control” Trump’s tweets.
“I was not brought to this job to control anything but the flow of information to our president,” Kelly said, noting that he thinks the president is a “decisive guy” and a “very thoughtful man.”
“I restrict no one from going to see him,” Kelly said. “I was not sent in or brought in to control him and you should not measure my effectiveness as chief of staff on what you think I should be doing.”
Kelly’s reassurance comes a day after my colleague Gabriel Sherman reported that Kelly is “miserable” in his job and is only staying on out of a sense of duty to the country. The Los Angeles Times added that Kelly and the president have engaged in “shouting matches,” and that Trump is “frustrated with Kelly and increasingly unwilling to be managed, even just a little.” Some Republicans believed Kelly was simply waiting for Kirstjen Nielsen, his second in command, to be safely installed at the Department of Homeland Security before stepping down.
But Kelly flat-out denied that the president’s volatile disposition makes his job more difficult—or even applies to his day-to-day responsibilities at all. “I read in the paper that I’ve been a failure at controlling the president,” he said. “I was not brought to this job to control anything but the flow of information to our president so that he can make the best decision . . . you should not judge my effectiveness by what you think I should be doing. I can guarantee you that he is now presented with well-thought-out options, and those options are discussed in detail with his team.”
As for the apparently pained expression cameras have captured on Kelly’s face almost every time he hears his boss speak? “You guys with the cameras always catch me when I’m thinking hard, and you think I’m frustrated and mad,” he explained. “I’m not frustrated. My only frustration is when I come to work in the morning and read about things that I allegedly said or things Mr. Trump allegedly said or people who are going to be fired, and it’s just not true.”
He added that, aside from the glacial lawmaking process, the president’s primary frustration “is you. All of you.” Or, to be fair, “not all of you, but many of you. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, that you’re operating off of contacts, leaks or whatever,” he added. “But I’d just offer you some advice . . . maybe develop some better sources.”