Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told a panel at Duke University on Wednesday that working for Donald Trump was the “least enjoyable job” he’s ever had — and that he would have worked in the same role for Hillary Clinton if she’d won the election and then asked him for help.
As The New York Times reports, Kelly stopped by Duke University on Wednesday for a 90-minute question-and-answer session, during which he addressed a variety of topics — and dodged some others.
Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, was brought into the Trump White House in July of 2017. At the time, the Oval Office had been through a series of staff changes, and indeed, the situation before then was described at the time — by The New York Times — as a “chaotic power struggle.” Staffers had hoped that as a military man, Kelly would be able to get a handle on the chaos within the administration.
Almost immediately, Kelly started making staff moves, perhaps most famously firing White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who had only been in his own post for 10 days.
However, Kelly soon found himself at odds with his boss on key issues, and by December of 2018 he had announced that he would be leaving his post at the end of the year.
In a speech Wednesday, John Kelly said this, of immigrants coming to the U.S. border: "By the way, they're overwhelmingly not criminals. They're people coming up here for economic purposes. I don't blame them for that." https://t.co/6HjjVF7ayv— David Gura (@davidgura) March 7, 2019
Of his 18 or so months in the Trump White House, Kelly said that he has mixed emotions. Specifically, he said that the job was at once the “least enjoyable” job he’s ever had, yet also the “most important.” Further, he said he took the job not out of partisanship or favoritism towards Donald Trump, but because he wanted to “serve.”
“If Hillary Clinton had called me [to be her chief of staff], I would have done it.”
While Kelly was forthcoming about some issues regarding his time in the Trump White House, he dodged questions about other issues. For example, when asked if he wrote a memo saying that President Trump had ordered officials to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a security clearance in May of 2018, Kelly declined to answer.
“I couldn’t — and I’m not dodging — I couldn’t comment on that for a couple of reasons.”
When asked whether or not he produced any memos for the record, Kelly said simply that he’d “prefer not to talk about that.”
Finally, asked about what advice he has for the new White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, Kelly said simply, “Run for it.”