John Kelly May Be Next Member Of Trump Administration Voted Off Island

If the Trump Administration can be likened to a reality television show, the steady stream of departures can be compared to contestants being voted off the island. As we approach the final installments of season two, there are rumors that the next exit will be none other than John Kelly.

Kelly, in the role of White House Chief of Staff, has long been rumored to want out and there are rumors that Kelly’s relationship with the president has become increasingly unworkable. CNN reports that Trump and Kelly have stopped talking to each other in recent days as the president has complained that Kelly is not politically savvy and is not well-suited to helping Trump handle a House led by Nancy Pelosi.

Shortly after the election, CNN reported that Trump was considering replacements for Kelly, Jeff Sessions, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Sessions tendered his resignation as attorney general last month.

Axios reported that a likely replacement for Kelly would be Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Pence. White House insiders who favor Ayers argue that his political instincts could help Trump deal with a divided Congress as well as the Russia probe and an economy that is increasingly turbulent, in large part due to President Trump’s protectionist trade policies.

Kelly, a retired Marine four-star general, was originally appointed to be Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security. He became chief of staff in July 2017 in the shakeup that followed President Trump delivering his signature line, “you’re fired,” to Reince Priebus. Kelly helped bring order to the chaos of the Trump White House but has reportedly clashed with the president on numerous issues.

Previous rumors of Kelly’s firing or resignation have been ‘greatly exaggerated,” to use Samuel Clemens’ phrase. Last July, President Trump confirmed to senior staff that Kelly had agreed to stay on until at least 2020. Even at that point, Trump alternated between praising and criticizing Kelly and there were reports that the president had ignored or circumvented many of Kelly’s policies and protocols.

Now the news coming out of the White House indicates that Kelly’s departure may be imminent. With the habit of dumping controversial news on Friday afternoon or over the weekend, it’s possible that Kelly’s departure could be announced as soon as today.

Stop Weaponizing Gold Star Families

The brouhaha over President Trump’s phone call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson has gotten even worse in recent days. After Chief of Staff John Kelly inserted himself in the debate, Kelly, himself a Gold Star father, became the subject of attacks from the left.

What have we become as a country when we use the families of fallen soldiers as weapons to attack political opponents? Or attack these families to protect politicians on our own side?

Not all of the families of fallen soldiers are going to say things that patriotic Americans agree with. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, is a prime example of a Gold Star mother who says things that are offensive to many other Americans.

The bottom line, however, is that they have the right, as American citizens, to express their opinions. As Americans who have sacrificed a family member, they have paid an unusually high price for the right to speak their minds freely. Their opinions should be respected, if not necessarily agreed with.

Can we resolve the issue of the phone call to Mrs. Johnson without calling either President Trump or Cowanda Jones-Johnson a liar? Yes. It’s surprisingly easy to guess what happened when we lay aside political grudges and preconceptions.

Keep in mind that first-person witnesses to an event are notoriously unreliable. This is especially true in cases where the individuals are under stress and distracted. Neither side recorded the call so both only have their fallible human memories and impressions to fall back on.

My best guess as to what happened is that President Trump made the call to Sgt. Johnson’s widow in good faith and went off script, as he tends to do. What seemed to be an innocuous comment to the president and Gen. Kelly was taken differently by the Johnson family and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fl.).

One of my favorite philosophies is Hanlon’s Razor, which advises, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” This advice applies to both sides in the current debate.

First, liberals should acknowledge that Donald Trump would not intentionally act so callously toward the widow of a fallen American soldier. The fact that Gen. Kelly now backs up Trump’s claim is a powerful argument that Trump’s statement may have been misheard or misinterpreted.

Second, Trump supporters should not assume that the family is intent on using the death of Sgt. Johnson to embarrass and attack the president. To assume that a grieving family would lie about what they heard the president say, knowing that it would cause Sgt. Johnson’s name to be dragged through the mud and that family members would be subjected to personal attacks in their time of grief, defies logic.

Kelly’s statement seems to support the idea that the president unintentionally misspoke. Recalling the words of Gen. Joseph Dunford after the death of his own son in Afghanistan, Kelly said, “He was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we were at war. And when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the President tried to say to the four families the other day.”

That’s what the President tried to say.

Kelly said that he had advised the president not to call the families of the fallen soldiers, but Trump had insisted. “If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’re not in combat, you can’t even begin to imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said.

It would be easy, for a distraught wife and mother, especially if they were not fans of Donald Trump in the first place, to read disrespect and callousness into the president’s comments. This is especially true if he did indeed start to ramble.

If there is a villain in the story, it is Rep. Wilson. It was Wilson who politicized the phone call. Even if the family members were offended by Trump’s remarks, it was Wilson used that pain for political gain. It was Wilson who has continually subjected the family to unnecessary pain by keeping the issue in the news. It is Wilson who has led much of the country to question the integrity of Sgt. Johnson’s family, who undoubtedly loved and cared for him very much.

At this point, both sides should stand down. Let’s agree that attacking Gold Star families, whether they are the Johnsons or the Kellys, Democrats or Republicans, liberal or conservative, should be off limits. Families of fallen soldiers are entitled to speak, but, in the name of decency, politicians should refrain from speaking for them.

When Cindy Sheehan attacked President Bush in 2005, his response was a great example of dignity, patience and honor. “I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan,” Bush said at the time. “She feels strongly about her position, and she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has the right to her position.”

Is There a Major Shakeup Coming at the State Department?

Perhaps there is more to the stories of simmering tensions between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Trump, after all.

To recap: On Wednesday, NBC News ran with a story detailing Tillerson’s anger over the president’s highly politicized and wholly inappropriate speech at this year’s Boy Scout Jamboree.
Reports are that Tillerson, a former Eagle Scout and national president of the Boy Scouts, not only threatened to resign, but called Trump a “moron.”

Later on Wednesday, Tillerson actually gave a press conference, where he disputed the reports of his having threatened to resign, although he blew off questions of whether he’d called the president a moron.

Then came the most ominous report of all –
President Trump was said to have full confidence in Tillerson.

At any time during the administration that that phrase, “full confidence” has been uttered, it is almost immediately followed by a resignation or a firing.

Does this mean we can look forward to a coming Rexit?
(See what I did there?)

Well, if there’s any validity to a new report from Axios, maybe.

According to the report, another Cabinet shuffle is forthcoming, with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo being considered to replace the disgruntled Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State.

The desire is to have as smooth of a transition, as possible. Pompeo is already around the table in the Situation Room, has Trump’s trust, and even delivers the daily briefings to him, personally. With that in mind, he’s seen as a perfect fit.

Also from the Axios report:

Sources tell us Trump recognizes that a Cabinet shuffle would bring bad press. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants stability, and so is discouraging high-level departures before next year.

And yet, insiders say Trump’s relationship with Tillerson is broken beyond repair. We’re told Trump was furious that Tillerson didn’t try to blunt the story about him calling the president a “moron,” by just going out and denying it (whether or not it actually occurred).

Trump was reportedly furious that what he considered a successful trip to Las Vegas, hoping to up his profile as a “compassionate leader” was overshadowed by news that his Secretary of State thought of him as a moron and had considered walking away from the dumpster fire known as the Trump administration.

Another element to the story is that chief of staff John Kelly was set to travel with the president on Air Force One on Wednesday, the same day the “moron” story broke, but was abruptly pulled from the flight. Some are saying it was so he could stay back and work on the chaos the story caused. A later report stated that Kelly called Defense Secretary James Mattis and Tillerson to the White House, in order to work through the tensions.

Mattis and Kelly are said to be firm allies of Tillerson in the administration, so there may be something to this.

Until an official announcement of a change at the head of the State Department, we can only watch the moves as they happen and put the pieces together, one by one.

Toddler Trump’s Terrific Tariff Tantrum Tweaks Top Advisors on China

President Trump was positively toddler-like in his single-minded pursuit of tariffs against China, and that has caused him to suspect some of his top aides don’t share his simplistic view of trade.

Axios reported:

Trump, addressing Kelly, said, “John, you haven’t been in a trade discussion before, so I want to share with you my views. For the last six months, this same group of geniuses comes in here all the time and I tell them, ‘Tariffs. I want tariffs.’ And what do they do? They bring me IP. I can’t put a tariff on IP.” (Most in the room understood that the president can, in fact, use tariffs to combat Chinese IP theft.)

“China is laughing at us,” Trump added. “Laughing.”

Kelly responded: “Yes sir, I understand, you want tariffs.”

Trump doesn’t want anything that the below-average uninformed voter can’t understand. If it’s on a foam board, Trump’s eyes glaze over. If a real-life Archie Bunker could not comprehend it in ten seconds, it’s too complex for the president.

That’s not to say he is incapable of understanding it. Far be it from me to impeach the great intellect of the man in the Oval Office (there, someone can now say I’ve used the “i” word). It simply means that Trump has no interest in the actual policies or effects of things. He wants to make a public show, and “intellectual property” (IP) isn’t showy.

“John, let me tell you why they didn’t bring me any tariffs,” he said. “I know there are some people in the room right now that are upset. I know there are some globalists in the room right now. And they don’t want them, John, they don’t want the tariffs. But I’m telling you, I want tariffs.”

Here is where Trump’s terrific tariff tantrum breaks down. Opposing tariffs does not make one a globalist, any more than pursuing “victory” in Afghanistan makes one a nation-builder. Tariffs hurt consumers; tariffs cost jobs. But Trump isn’t interested in actual jobs–only things he can tweet or announce on television.

If the president stands up and says we are going to “beat China” and announces “the finest tariffs you’ve ever seen, believe me,” then his fans will believe him. Some of them will believe him all the way to the unemployment line, like the workers at Carrier.

Just possibly, the people in the room, like senior trade adviser Peter Navarro, know this and wish to save jobs, while dealing with the biggest China-related issues (IP theft being high on the list). Maybe that’s why they keep bringing Trump IP, not tariffs. Maybe they are smart, and using foam boards in an attempt to teach the president something.

But none of that fits Trump’s script. He doesn’t want to understand it because even if he did, he can’t explain it to Archie Bunker in ten seconds.

So in the end, nothing will get done quickly, and the leaks will continue to spring forth as frustrated aides turn to the press in a vain hope to nudge Trump’s needle. If there was, in fact, one word I’d use to describe the Toddler Presidency, it’s “vain.”

Is Steve Bannon on the Outs at the White House?

By now we’re used to hearing about rumors of upheaval in the Trump White House, but it’s worth nothing that multiple sources are indicating that Steve Bannon may be on the outs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sources state that Bannon has garnered the ire of Chief of Staff John Kelly, because Bannon is apparently pursuing an agenda of his own that doesn’t fit with the direction in which Kelly is trying to steer the administration.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster’s appearance on Meet The Press this weekend adds some fuel to the speculation. Host Chuck Todd asked McMaster about Bannon and his effectiveness at helping pursue an agenda that benefits the American people. McMaster didn’t appear to indicate that Bannon is a team player.

“Can you and Steve Bannon still work together,” Todd asked.

“I get to work together with a broad range of talented people,” McMaster said. “It’s a privilege every day to enable the national security team.”

Asked again, McMaster said, “I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the President’s agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people.”

“Do you believe that Steve Bannon does that,” Todd asked.

“I believe that everyone in the White House … should be motivated by that goal,” he said.

I can’t help but wonder: with all those generals in the White House, why haven’t any of them suggested that Bannon do something with his ridiculous hair? But I digress…

Other sources have told CNN that Trump himself is fed up with Bannon, and former communications director Anthony Scaramucci hinted to ABC that Trump may let Bannon go partially because of White House leaks, but mainly because the former Breitbart mastermind’s ties to the alt-right could drag the administration down.

“If the President really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people … then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense,” Scaramucci said, using a portmanteau of Bannon and Breitbart, the outlet Bannon once said was a “platform for the alt-right.”

Does Steve Bannon have a long-term future at the White House? Will Saturday’s tragic violence in Charlottesville serve as a fitting springboard to get rid of the biggest alt-right cheerleader in the administration? I have a feeling that the answer to this question could stir up yet more controversy for the White House.

Trump to Kelly: Save My Presidency!

Here are the facts as we see them laid out before us.

  • President Donald Trump was surrounded with more voices and responsibilities than he’d ever anticipated. “This s**t is hard.”
  • His White House had become a sea of stress, chaos, and ill discipline.
  • His agenda was in tatters, with only one accomplishment–Justice Gorsuch–to show.
  • He and his family were ever-more deeply embroiled in scandal and Russian interference stories that he simply could not make go away.
  • The White House leaked like a sieve and nobody trusted Trump (or his family) enough to tell him who is leaking.
  • Trump had made a deal with “the establishment,” that in fact won him the Republican nomination and the White House, to try things “the Washington way,” but that deal had crumbled with his loss of respect for Reince Priebus.
  • There was increasingly nobody the president could turn to, who he could trust.
  • His presidency was failing.

I think that about covers it.

When Trump first sought out Gen. John Kelly, it was to take the Chief of Staff position. Trump loves “the generals.” We could see it before he even took office, holding fort with them at Mar-a-Lago over Christmas. He wanted to surround himself with generals: Kelly, McMaster, Flynn.

Flynn was taken out–as Trump saw it–by leaks. And since the day he took office, he’s suffered a thousand cuts by leakers. Trump fires Comey for not dealing with the leakers on Russia and not publicly exonerating his boss (this was undoubtedly the real reason at the root of everything).

Finally, desperate, Trump’s family implores him to get rid of Priebus, a party man who doesn’t do things the “Trump way.” So he brings in Mooch the Fixer to torpedo Priebus, and it works.

But the leaks are still there, with Scaramucci’s embarrassing fail with Ryan Lizza now reflecting poorly on Trump. Now the Russians, the Iranians, and the North Koreans decide to start making trouble.

Trump couldn’t–can’t–even talk to his own lawyers (the lead attorney, Marc Kasowitz, he also fired) without fear of the press learning everything.

When Trump fired Comey, John Kelly reportedly nearly quit Homeland Security in protest, but Comey convinced him to stay.

With no real options left (who would work for Trump at this point?), the president turned to Kelly: “Save my presidency.”

What Kelly likely heard was “save our country.” No leader at Kelly’s level wants to see America’s enemies take advantage of the chaos. He may have had some conditions–or at least one: “Everyone reports to me.”

That was confirmed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters today:

MS. SANDERS:  As we’ve laid out, General Kelly I think will bring new structure to the White House and discipline and strength.  And we’re all really excited to work with him.  And in terms of — I’m not going to draw out an org chart up here, but we’ll keep you guys posted as —

Q    So Steve Bannon, Kellyanne, everyone reports under him instead of going straight to the President with issues?  Does every special assistant go to General Kelly first?

MS. SANDERS:  I think I’ve been clear that General Kelly has the full authority to carry out business as he sees fit.


Q    — you said earlier, all staff will report to the new Chief of Staff.  Does that include Jared Kushner?  Does that include Steve Bannon?  Everyone reports to Kelly?

MS. SANDERS:  That includes everybody at the White House.

It obviously included Anthony Scaramucci, who bridled at losing his carte blanche Oval Office pass, and was immediately sacked and escorted from the White House. Now the close-knit cabal of trusted aides may move into front-line positions.

Two perennial candidates to fill the post are Kellyanne Conway, a White House senior adviser and the president’s former campaign manager, and Jason Miller, who held the communications post during the campaign. Mr. Trump has long wanted to bring Mr. Miller, who serves as an informal adviser, into the administration.

One thing is certain. If John Kelly is to save Trump’s presidency, he will need all the authority Trump can give a man besides himself. That means access to the president, by phone, visit, or other communications, must go through Kelly. It hopefully means the 4 a.m. tweets will stop–or be cleared through the general.

We don’t know the exact “deal” Trump made with Kelly, but, from the facts, we can argue it is the desperate plea of a drowning president.

BREAKING: General John Kelly to be Chief of Staff. Priebus Out

The President has terminated Reince Priebus and replaced him with General John Kelly, who is currently serving as Secretary of Homeland Security. That will now open back up Homeland Security.

Priebus’s departure has been a long time coming. White House staffers were telling me months ago the President was trying to push him out. The latest feud with Scaramucci helped seal his fate.

Kelly is a Marine and, if the President will let him actually be Chief, should be competent at the core functions of the job.

Interestingly, the President tweeted out his appointment from Air Force One while on the ground at Andrews Air Force Base. Reince Priebus had just walked off the plane.

Sen. Harris Taken to the Woodshed by Sen. Burr (Videos)

During Wednesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the committee chairman, found it necessary to scold Kamala Harris, the rude and overly ambitious Junior Democrat Senator from California. The object of Harris’ disrespect was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Harris, looking for a nationally televised moment to help spur her nascent campaign to become the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee, continually badgered Rosentein. Harris interrupted Rosentein time and time again as he politely to answer her question about the authority of former FBI Director Robert Mueller in his role as special counsel investigating Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

Finally, as you can see in the following video Burr took her to task:

Transcript via The Washington Free Beacon:

Will the senator suspend. The chair is going to exercise it’s right to allow the witnesses to answer the question,And the committee is on notice to provide the witnesses the courtesy, which has not been extended all the way across, extend the courtesy for questions to get answered.

As you can see, even then Harris criticized Rosenstein for “joking” about his ability to “filibuster” the committee before Rothstein was able to answer without Harris interrupting.

In another video prior to Burr’s intervention, you can hear Sen. John McCain complain that the witness should be allowed to answer.

Harris also interrogated Department of Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly with the same lack of decorum during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Tuesday. You can watch that Harris badgering in the video below:

Partial Transcript via Real Clear Politics:

HARRIS: So are you aware that there are local law enforcement…
KELLY: Let me at least finish once before you interrupt me?
HARRIS: Sir, with all due respect…
KELLY: With all due respect, Senator.
HARRIS: Are you instructing local law enforcement leaders that they can overlook at DHS detainer request so they’re not exposed to criminal liability?
KELLY: We talk to them about whatever they’re comfortable with, whatever they think they can do within the interpretation of their local attorneys general, as an example, or local lawyers…
HARRIS: So when they’re…
KELLY: Would you let me finish once?
HARRIS: Excuse me? I’m asking the questions.
KELLY: But I’m trying to answer the questions.
HARRIS: When they are — when they tell you, as I know local police officers — police chiefs are being told, that it would expose their municipality to civil liability if they comply with the detainer requests, are you telling them that you will not withhold the DHS federal funding that they rely on?
KELLY: OK. Before I start to answer, will you let me finish?
HARRIS: If it’s responsive to the question, of course.

Harris was more concerned about what she wanted to say than any information Kelly had to offer.

After a mere five months in the Senate, Harris seems to be in an even bigger hurry then Sen. Barack Obama was  to run for president.