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Rumblings about White House infighting are nothing new in the Trump administration. The latest example can be found in President Donald Trump’s working relationship with his still-new chief of staff, John Kelly.
Trump has reportedly bristled at Kelly, a former Marine general, over his attempts to whip the West Wing into shape.
The White House is coming off of a tumultuous summer in which several top staffers have either resigned or were terminated, while the president has continued to find himself embroiled in repeated controversies.
Kelly, according to several media reports, has sought to limit access to Trump, supplement his media diet with more reputable news sources, and regulate his use of social media.
And with the most recent departures of chief strategist Steve Bannon and deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, the Trump administration has gradually lost its original far-right, nationalist-leaning champions, to the dismay of some of the president’s most devout supporters who worry his populist agenda may suffer.
While the administration’s nationalist wing has diminished, its centrist, establishment figures – most notably led by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Kelly – have ascended. Knives have already come out for McMaster, and longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone suggested Kelly could be next.
“It is inevitable that a guy who will not be contained and does not want to be handled or managed was going to rebel against the latest manager who wanted to control him,” Stone told The New York Times in a story about Kelly’s influence published Friday night.
The Times’ Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman wrote that Stone saw Trump’s White House as being taken over by a “triumvirate” of military generals found in Kelly and Mattis, who are retired, and in McMaster.
For his part, Trump has sought to counter any perception that he and Kelly were clashing. He wrote in a couple of posts on Twitter Friday: “General John Kelly is doing a great job as Chief of Staff … I could not be happier or more impressed – and this Administration continues to get things done at a record clip. Many big decisions to be made over the coming days and weeks. AMERICA FIRST!”