John Kelly reaches 1-year anniversary with Trump

WASHINGTON — One year ago Saturday, President Trump made a major personnel announcement, as he would do again in the future, on Twitter — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly would be taking over as White House chief of staff. 

Kelly, who replaced onetime GOP Chairman Reince Priebus whose establishment party background sometimes seemed out of step with the abrupt, ever-changing nature of the still-new administration, was seen by many as someone who could restore order to the West Wing. 

In the year that has passed since, Kelly has implemented some not-so-trivial changes like limiting the number of people who can see the president directly, overhauling the White House security clearance process in the wake of the scandal involving former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, and offering measured counsel to a president who in his own words says things that admittedly might be politically incorrect.

But in the last year — a year filled with talk that his exit could be imminent — the nature of the presidency and more so, the president, have at times rendered Kelly unable to rein in a president who likes to do things as he sees fit.

Just days into Kelly’s tenure as chief of staff, violence erupted at white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a man plowed a vehicle through the street to injure more than a dozen people and kill 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Mr. Trump, in a flabbergasting press availability at Trump Tower that August day, declared there was “blame on both sides,” upsetting even members of his own party. Kelly stood not far off during Mr. Trump’s comments, with photographers capturing him with arms folded, looking down. 

In January, Kelly was put into a rare spotlight after issuing a statement standing by Porter when he was accused of abusing his ex-wives. Exactly what Kelly knew and when put Kelly in the middle of the controversy. When the abuse allegations became public, Kelly issued a statement calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”

John Kelly seen with President Trump on Jan. 31, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

CBS News learned then-White House communications director Hope Hicks, who was dating Porter, played a significant role in crafting that statement and that White House counsel Don McGahn told Kelly in November 2017 there was an issue related to Porter’s clearance, but was vague about the allegations.    

Less-than-optimal situations continued for Kelly into spring.

The Associated Press reported in April that Mr. Trump had frozen out Kelly, because he was “tired of being told ‘no.'” When Mr. Trump made a congratulatory phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kelly wasn’t on the line, the AP reported, and when the president tapped John Bolton to be his national security adviser, Kelly wasn’t in the room. 

CBS News reported the same month that Kelly had alienated some in the West Wing by giving more power to Cabinet secretaries. 

In April, Kelly battled an NBC report that claimed he had called the president an “idiot,” and that Kelly saw himself as a buffer against catastrophe. Kelly called the report “total B.S,” saying he and the president have “an incredibly candid and strong relationship.” 

Now, one year in, how long 68-year-old Kelly will stay at the White House is unclear. Last month, Mr. Trump was asked how long Kelly will stay. “That I don’t know. I like John a lot,” he responded. 

“Look, at some point, things happen but I will tell you … we have a very good relationship. He’s a wonderful man,” Mr. Trump.

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