- White House officials and sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly discussing the idea of having White House chief of staff John Kelly lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- The development follows the withdrawal of Trump nominee Ronny Jackson, the embattled US Navy Rear Adm. took himself out of the running on Thursday.
- For Kelly, a move from the White House to the VA could spare him from the embarrassment of being fired or forced to resign, which has been the going rumor over the last few months.
White House officials and sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly talking about sending White House chief of staff John Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as rumors and calls for his ouster circulated throughout political circles in recent weeks.
Sources familiar with the situation explained to Vanity Fair that consideration for Kelly as VA secretary gained traction after Trump’s previous nominee, US Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, decided to withdraw his candidacy on Thursday.
“They’re looking for a place for Kelly to land that won’t be embarrassing for him,” one Republican source told Vanity Fair.
Military service is not a requirement to lead the VA, but Kelly’s background as a former Marine Corps four-star general may give him an head start. As the second largest agency in the US government, the VA serves over nine million veterans for their medical and educational needs every year.
The VA’s sheer complexity has previously led to calls for the agency to be privatized for the sake of efficiency.
Kelly has some experience leading large institutions, like the Department of Homeland Security and US Southern Command, but the VA could prove to be his biggest challenge yet. Scandals related to accusations of inadequate care have plagued the department, and numerous secretaries have been forced out over the years.
A White House spokesperson denied that Kelly was being considered for VA secretary, according to Vanity Fair.
Rumors surrounding Kelly’s fate have intensified lately. And his role in the White House seemed to shrink as Trump reportedly takes more license to govern his own daily agenda.
Outside advisers to Trump have floated the idea of removing the chief of staff role completely, according to CNN.
Despite Trump’s initial praise for Kelly when he was brought on in July 2017, Kelly has reportedly fallen out of favor with Trump. Kelly was hired to establish order in Trump’s chaotic West Wing, which has shifted and buckled under multiple scandals and high-profile staff departures.