General John Kelly has been visibly miserable since he became Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff ten weeks ago, and he’s clearly only remained on the job out of a sense of duty to the country. It’s long been assumed that the “duty” in question was to babysit Trump and prevent him from starting World War III. But based on a move he made yesterday, it’s time to begin asking if Kelly might instead be trying to line up the 25th Amendment behind Trump’s back.
John Kelly was a cabinet member until he resigned his position as DHS Secretary in order to become Chief of Staff. His old job has remained vacant ever since, until yesterday. Kelly decided that his own longtime top deputy Kirstjen Nielsen should be the new DHS Secretary. Even though the relationship between Trump and Kelly is reportedly deteriorating by the day, Kelly nonetheless managed to convince Trump to sign off on the move. Nielsen is a solid pick for the job, but it’s bizarre that Kelly would want to part ways with his top deputy at a time when he needs all the help in the White House he can get. This is where 25th Amendment math comes in.
In order for the President to be removed from office on account of unfitness, the Vice President and the majority of the cabinet must sign off on it. We don’t know where Mike Pence is on this. We do know that roughly half of Trump’s cabinet consists of his personal cronies, while the other half could conceivably vote against him as he continues to mentally deteriorate. It’s entirely possible that the DHS Secretary position could end up being the swing vote – so you have to ask yourself what it means that Kelly just installed one of his own loyalists in that position.
There are other valid explanations for why John Kelly might have suddenly decided to shoehorn Kirstjen Nielsen into the position. Perhaps Kelly is planning to resign, or expects to get fired soon, and he wants to make sure Nielsen’s situation is squared away first. But it sure stands out that Trump’s own advisers admitted to Vanity Fair this week that they’ve been warning Trump about the 25th Amendment, on the same day Kelly installed one of his own people in a vacant cabinet position. Keep a close eye on what happens the cabinet position recently vacated by Tom Price.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report