Will John Kelly Be Fired?

It wasn’t so long ago that Beltway political reporters were lauding White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as the paragon of virtue in the Trump administration. Almost immediately, he smeared a sitting congresswoman from the White House podium. In the following weeks and months, he sought to rebuild his reputation as a by-the-book military man just trying to serve his country under an unstable president. But last week, Kelly suggested that some immigrants eligible for DACA were “too lazy to get off their asses” to sign up for the program. And then there was the Rob Porter fiasco.

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Kelly’s first response to reports that both of Porter’s ex-wives accused him of abuse was to release a fawning statement about his colleague, via CNN:

White House chief of staff John Kelly called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him.” “He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him,” Kelly said in a statement.

Then, after the Daily Mail published photos of Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye she says resulted from Porter’s attack, Kelly released a second statement that took a brave stance against domestic violence. Two days later, according to Politico, Kelly was telling staff that “once he’d been briefed on allegations of abuse against Porter by his two ex-wives, ‘he was gone 40 minutes later.’” Except we know that’s not the case:

In the hours immediately after the Daily Mail published a photograph of Porter’s first ex-wife with a black eye, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders hastily arranged an off-the-record meeting in the West Wing with Porter and four reporters: the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Axios’ Jonathan Swan, and the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender. In that meeting, which hasn’t previously been reported, Porter relayed his version of events and fielded questions from the group.

Sanders later went with the line from the White House podium that Porter had been gone within 24 hours of the White House’s becoming aware of the allegations. Except that also wasn’t true, as Politico reminds us:

Kelly was aware weeks before the Daily Mail story that Porter’s background check had turned up red flags — though not the full extent of the abuse — but Porter never rose to the top of his list of problems to deal with. In an undisciplined, chaotic White House, Porter was universally respected and highly regarded throughout other staffers and by Trump himself.

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Other reports are less generous than this one. CNN, for instance, makes clear that Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn knew of the abuse allegations at least weeks ago. The takeaway is clear: because Porter was one of the few White House staffers who had even a modicum of competence at his job, it was considered acceptable—or at least a non-priority—that he’d been accused of assault by multiple women.

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That issue of finding competent people to serve in the West Wing is, according to Politico, compounded by some requirements imposed by the head of the operation:

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Kelly has, meanwhile, failed to resolve the underlying issues preventing the Trump administration from developing a pipeline of new recruits as the first wave of hires begin to leave. The administration continues to impose the ideological litmus test that kept out many Trump critics during the presidential transition, particularly in the realm of national security. A second former Bush administration official said that he had recommended a job candidate to the White House within the past month who had criticized the president during the campaign and was told that the prospect of hiring the candidate remained a “non-starter.”

It’s almost like electing a relentlessly petty and emotionally needy president has consequences. You can see, in a grotesque way, why Kelly clung to Porter even after what he learned about him. 17 senior officials have already left this administration, and many of the people who have skulked the halls of the White House in recent months are shall-we-say unconventional picks. Take Omarosa, for example, whom Kelly had a lot less compunction about kicking to the curb:

And in December, he dismissed the former director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault, who had been using the White House car service — known as “CARPET” — as an office pick-up and drop-off service, something strictly forbidden by the federal government, according to three administration officials. After Kelly dismissed her, Manigault tried to storm the White House residence to appeal to Trump, according to one of the officials, accidentally tripping an electronic Secret Service wire that monitors entry and egress from the residence.

Here we might also mention that Manigault was also pulling down just short of $180,000 a year in taxpayer cash to do…what exactly? But it’s that kind of nose for reality TV-drama that allowed Omarosa to accomplish a legitimately impressive feat since: She is not only already on a reality show—Big Brother on CBS—but the show is already airing, less than two months after her departure. She’s made a big show of being regretful of her time helping Donald Trump get elected, and serving in his administration, and reading his tweets. Apparently, she is “haunted.” Now, she’s spreading the good word, via Politico again, about Vice President Mike Pence:

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Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman cautioned Monday night that Americans pining for the impeachment of President Donald Trump should reconsider their wishes, because Vice President Mike Pence is “scary.”

“Can I just say this? As bad as y’all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence,” Manigault told her housemates on Celebrity Big Brother in an episode that aired on Monday. She continued: “ We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became President, that’s all I’m saying. He’s extreme.”

In conclusion, it appears the republic is in good hands with this group. If it’s not the reality TV stars, it’s the chief of staff who will abide alleged domestic abusers as long as they can come to work without causing an international incident.

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