Trump has made yet another drastic change within his staff after only six months in office. Who’s next?
His White House in turmoil, President Donald Trump abruptly announced late Friday he was appointing Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to be his chief of staff, ending the tumultuous six-month tenure of Reince Priebus.
Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is a battle-hardened commander who would bring a background of military discipline and order to Trump’s roiling White House as the new chief of staff.
Kelly’s experience as Homeland Security secretary and a veteran of three tours in Iraq — along with a sobering family tragedy — suggests he’ll be a loyal manager for Trump when he starts the job Monday.
“He has been a true star of my administration,” the president tweeted Friday, announcing that his current secretary of homeland security was in, and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was out.
Trump called Kelly a “great leader” and “great American.” He called Priebus, ousted after a tumultuous six months, a “good man.”
Priebus said he had offered his resignation on Thursday and the president accepted, although those close to the president said the ouster had been in the works for weeks.
“I think the president wanted to go a different direction,” Priebus told CNN just hours after his exit was announced. He added that he agreed the White House might well benefit from “a reset,” and he said, “I’m always going to be a Trump fan. I’m on Team Trump.”
As Homeland Security secretary, Kelly has taken the lead on some of Trump’s most controversial policies, including his executive orders suspending the admission of refugees and temporarily barring visitors from several Muslim-majority nations.
In April, Kelly bluntly challenged members of Congress critical of the Trump administration’s aggressive approach to immigration enforcement to either change the laws or “shut up.”
A Somber Distinction
Kelly has won bipartisan respect from lawmakers as a result of his distinguished military career. He joined the Marine Corps in 1970, carving out a reputation as a highly respected but often outspoken commander who could roil debate and issue unpopular directives on issues ranging from women in combat to the treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center.
Kelly also holds a somber distinction. He was the highest-ranking officer to lose a child in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Kelly’s son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in November 2010 in Afghanistan.
Kelly retired from the military last year, wrapping up a three-year post as head of US Southern Command
In his final Pentagon news conference, he spoke about the loss of his son — a topic he didn’t often discuss publicly.
“To lose a child is — I can’t imagine anything worse than that. I used to think, when I’d go to all of my trips up to Bethesda, Walter Reed, I’ll go to the funerals with the secretaries of defense, that I could somehow imagine what it would be like,” Kelly said.
But, he added, “when you lose one in combat, there’s a — in my opinion — there’s a pride that goes with it, that he didn’t have to be there doing what he was doing. He wanted to be there. He volunteered.”
Kelly said he gets “occasional letters from Gold Star families who are asking, ‘Was it worth it?’ And I always go back with this: It doesn’t matter. That’s not our question to ask as parents. That young person thought it was worth it, and that’s the only opinion that counts.”