Trump slams former chief of staff John Kelly for criticizing him and drags Kelly’s wife into their feud

John Kelly and Donald Trump.

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John Kelly and Donald Trump.
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Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump lashed out at his former chief of staff John Kelly after news broke that Kelly had criticized the president’s handling of a range of issues, from impeachment to the media.
  • “When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head. Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him,” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning.
  • Trump added that Kelly “went out with a whimper” and “just can’t keep his mouth shut,” and he claimed that Kelly’s wife promised that her husband would “only speak well” of Trump.
  • On Wednesday night, Kelly, a retired military general, defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in Trump’s impeachment inquiry, against Trump’s attacks.
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President Donald Trump lashed out at his former chief of staff John Kelly in a series of tweets on Thursday after news broke that Kelly had criticized the president’s handling of a range of issues, from impeachment to the media.

“When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head. Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him,” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do.”

Trump claimed that Kelly’s wife, Karen Hernest, promised that her husband would “only speak well” of Trump after he left the White House in December 2018.

“His incredible wife, Karen, who I have a lot of respect for, once pulled me aside & said strongly that ‘John respects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you.’ Wrong!” Trump tweeted.

Kelly, a retired military general, has repeatedly criticized the president in recent weeks, and on Wednesday night he said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in Trump’s impeachment inquiry, “did exactly what we teach them to do” when he reported Trump’s “illegal” pressure campaign in Ukraine.

“We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,'” Kelly said, according to The Atlantic.

Kelly also took issue with Trump’s intervention in the case of Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who was ultimately acquitted of war crimes and whose demotion Trump reversed.

Kelly said Gallagher, whom Trump has lavishly praised, “was not a guy who represents our military in any way, shape or form.”

“The military legal justice system worked; he was found guilty of certain things. He should have been ashamed of himself, and he should have been sent home,” Kelly said. “So the idea that the commander in chief intervened there, in my opinion, was exactly the wrong thing to do.”

The retired general also went after the president’s favorite outlet, Fox News, arguing that the network is politically biased.

“The media, in my view, and I feel very strongly about this, is not the enemy of the people,” he said, according to the Morristown Daily Record. “We need a free media. That said, you have to be careful about what you are watching and reading, because the media has taken sides. So if you only watch Fox News, because it’s reinforcing what you believe, you are not an informed citizen.”

In a Fox News interview on Thursday, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, called Kelly’s remarks “disingenuous” and said she was “disappointed” with him.

“I was in the room with him when he actually backed the president on many of the things he’s now saying weren’t great,” Grisham said. “I thought it was a little disingenuous.”