President Donald Trump has replaced chief of staff Reince Priebus with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, he said Friday afternoon on Twitter. The announcement came after the failure of the Republican health care repeal bill, and as White House personnel fights exploded in dramatic fashion. Priebus had increasingly been the subject of Trump’s ire,…
The announcement came after the failure of the Republican health care repeal bill, and as White House personnel fights exploded in dramatic fashion. Priebus had increasingly been the subject of Trump’s ire, as his agenda has been stalled on Capitol Hill.
The former Republican National Committee chairman has repeatedly clashed with new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who had threatened to push Priebus out of the White House. Priebus allies in the White House have been under pressure for months, with former Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigning last week after Scaramucci’s hiring.
A source close to Priebus told TIME that the chief of staff resigned privately Thursday. Priebus accompanied Trump on a trip to New York Friday afternoon, and Trump’s tweet was sent as the pair were on Air Force One returning to Washington. Nearly all White House staffers, including several Assistants to the President, were unaware of the news before Trump tweeted.
“Reince is a good man,” Trump told the White House traveling press corps gathered at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington after the news broke Friday afternoon. “John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. He’s a great great American. Reince is a good man.”
The surprise appointment raised a number of questions. Not least was the challenge of finding a new chief for the Department of Homeland Security. When Kelly was confirmed, the President’s ideas about border security, the wall on the U.S.-Mexican border was a campaign promise and little more, and the ban on individuals from Muslim countries were still notions and not policy. Confirming a new Secretary for Homeland Security will be treated as a referendum on the first six months of policy coming out of the Department. The travel ban — or “Muslim ban,” as Trump called it against the advice of lawyers — could dominate the hearings. “Goodness, this could get messy,” said one senior Republican aide on Capitol Hill.