Last night Donald Trump attacked the media for pushing a storyline about how he was preparing to fire his Chief of Staff John Kelly. The trouble: while disconcerting details have been leaking out, the media largely had not been pushing that storyline. It was still unclear if Trump was trying to set the stage for Kelly’s departure or just trying to create a distraction. Kelly held a press conference today where he declared “I’m not quitting today.” But now Kelly has made a definitive move which suggests he is about to resign.
John Kelly is clearly under the gun when it comes to trying to keep a rapidly deteriorating Donald Trump from melting down and getting us all killed. Kelly needs all the help he can get, and he knows it. So why on earth would he decide today to suddenly ship his own longtime trusted deputy out of the White House? Yet that’s precisely what Kelly is now trying to do.
That’s according to a new Politico report, which says that John Kelly is now trying to install his top deputy Kirstjen Nielsen – who has been his right hand woman from the start – as the new DHS Secretary (link). Nielsen is highly qualified for the job, and the vacant position does need to be filled. But there are other qualified people, including the current acting Director – and Kelly needs Nielsen at his side more than ever.
The most logical explanation is the most straightforward one: Kelly doesn’t expect to be there much longer, either because he’s planning to resign, or because he expects Donald Trump is about to force him to resign. He’s making sure his own top deputy lands somewhere safe before his own departure leaves her without a job. Under different circumstances, a different explanation might be more plausible. But considering that Trump is now trying to publicly stir the pot about Kelly’s potential departure, Kelly’s reassignment of Nielsen suggests things are about to go down one way or the other.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report