Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chief of Staff John Kelly will be out of the White House by the end of July. The two people believed to be the strongest candidates to replace him at this time are Mick Mulvaney, who currently heads the Office of Management and Budget and serves as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence, Nick Ayers. Another name has been floated: Hope Hicks. When asked about the possibility, Hicks said that, although she is not pursuing the spot, she would accept if it were offered. When asked about it on Air Force One Friday, President Trump said the following.
“I love Hope. She’s great. I hope that — I’ve been hearing little things like that. I think everybody misses it. You people exhaust a lot of people. They come in full of life and vim and vigor and then they’re exhausted. Many people would like to come back. Look, there is nothing more exciting than what we’re doing.”
Vanity Fair calls Hicks the “dark-horse candidate” and says that a source inside the White House has confirmed to them that her name is on the list of possible replacements for Kelly.
The White House has denied that there are problems between Trump and Kelly, much less that the chief of staff is in the last days of his tenure. Asked Friday about his relationship with Kelly, The Hill reports that the president said the following.
“We have a very good relationship. He’s a wonderful man. John Kelly, 4-star, wonderful man. Don’t forget, this is a big change for him. This has not been an easy change for him. We have a very, very good relationship… we’ve achieved a lot… I like John a lot. I like him and I respect him.”
“I spoke to the president who refuted this article. He said it is absolutely not true and that it is fake news,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One. She also indicated that she had spoken with Mr. Kelly, who said “this was news to him,” but he has reportedly told colleagues that he doesn’t plan to stay in his current position for more than a year. July 31 will be his one-year anniversary as White House Chief of Staff.
Reports indicate that John Kelly doesn’t feel he can serve well in his position because President Trump simply doesn’t listen to him. One reason many believed Kelly was brought into the White House was to impose some structure and discipline to a West Wing that appeared to be out of control. He asserted himself as a gatekeeper for those seeking to speak to the president, but his ability to serve in that capacity has seemed diminished of late, as senior staff aides have been able to report directly to the president with no involvement by John Kelly.
This has created dissatisfaction with the job and a belief by Kelly that Trump doesn’t really want a chief of staff. This is a point not denied by people who have been in the Trump White House for a while. They say he prefers the counsel of friends and associates on his own timetable over the structured communication that Kelly sought to impose.