President Trump on Friday denounced former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as a “tough-guy” who “didn’t do a good job” and got fired.
Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, has been conspicuously silent as Trump and his allies deny a magazine story that says the president made disparaging remarks about military service and war dead, including at the grave of Kelly’s son.
“I know John Kelly, he was with me, didn’t do a good job, had no temperament and ultimately he was petered out,” Trump told reporters at a White House press briefing.
“He got — was exhausted. This man was totally exhausted, he wasn’t even able to function in the last number of months. He was not able to function. He was sort of a tough-guy. By the time he got eaten up in this world — it’s a different world than he was used to, he was unable to function.”
Trump said he fired Kelly but allowed him to “resign.”
“I told him, ‘John, you’re going to have to go. Please give me your letter of resignation.’ And we did that. And now he goes out and badmouths,” Trump said.
The president added: “But I don’t know that it was him, I haven’t seen that … but it could have been a guy like a John Kelly.”
Kelly was with the president during a November 2018 trip to Paris when Trump canceled one of two military cemetery trips. Anonymous sources told The Atlantic that Trump referred to Americans killed in World War I as “suckers,” a report the president strongly denied.
The White House produced an email indicating there was a “bad weather call” preventing Trump from making the trip by helicopter. A day later, Trump spoke in the rain without an umbrella at a different military cemetery closer to Paris.
The article in The Atlantic also alleged that Trump said to Kelly at the grave of his son, who died in Afghanistan, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”
Blasting the magazine’s sources, Trump said, “There are people that are jealous. There are people that are upset that they’re not here anymore.”
Kelly left the White House in January 2019 after 17 months where he often cast himself as a grown-up restraining the president’s policy impulses after chaotic early months defined by palace intrigue and in-fighting among staff.
The president said that with Kelly, “you look at some of his news conferences, what happened to him. He got eaten alive. he was unable to handle the pressure of this.”
Trump told reporters that his current chief of staff, Mark Meadows, “is doing a great job, but Kelly was unable to do that.”
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