Trump Ousts Reince Priebus As Chief Of Staff, Taps DHS Secretary Kelly For Role

Andrew Harnik/AP

President Donald Trump’s embattled chief of staff is out.

Reince Priebus stepped down on Friday after weeks of turmoil in the West Wing. Trump tapped Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to fill the role.

Before being confirmed Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, Kelly was a general in the U.S. Marine Corps. Starting in 2012, he led the U.S. Southern Command.

The Washington Post’s David Nakamura spotted Priebus on the tarmac in Suffolk, New York, earlier in the day. Trump gave an aggressive anti-gang speech at Suffolk Community College Friday, congratulating Kelly right after praising Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan, who Trump recalled someone on television had said “looks very nasty, he looks very mean.”

“I said, that’s what I’m looking for,” Trump said. “That’s exactly what I was looking for.”

“And for that, I want to congratulate John Kelly, who has done an incredible job of Secretary of Homeland Security,” Trump continued. “One of our real stars.  Truly, one of our stars.  John Kelly is one of our great stars.”

The New York Times reported Friday, prior to Trump’s announcement, that the President had “openly told people” he wanted “a general” in the chief of staff job.

“Reince is a good man,” Trump told reporters after Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews following the speech. “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.”

Priebus’ replacement comes after support for him within the Trump administration gradually eroded over months of Trump-fueled chaos. In recent days, Priebus’ standing deteriorated more rapidly.

The appointment of Trump booster Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director — and subsequent resignation of Sean Spicer in protest — indicated that Priebus’ days were numbered.

Scaramucci repeatedly insinuated to reporters that Priebus was a major source of White House leaks. In a profanity-laced interview Wednesday with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, Scaramucci warned: “Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.”

At a press briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say Priebus had Trump’s confidence.

“[I]f the President doesn’t, then he’ll make that decision,” Sanders said. “We all serve at the pleasure of the President, and if he gets to a place where that isn’t the case, he’ll let you know.”

Sanders praised Kelly in a statement to pool reporters Friday. “The entire Administration loves him and no one is comparable,” she said, noting that he would begin in his new position on Monday.

In a statement released shortly after Priebus’ dismissal, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Priebus, the Republican-National-Committee-chairman-turned-chief-of-staff, “has left it all out on the field, for our party and our country.”

“Here is a guy from Kenosha, Wisconsin who revitalized the Republican National Committee and became White House chief of staff,” Ryan continued. “He has served the president and the American people capably and passionately. He has achieved so much, and he has done it all with class. I could not be more proud to call Reince a dear friend.”

“I congratulate Secretary Kelly on his appointment, and look forward to working with him to advance our agenda,” he concluded.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who was on Air Force One immediately before Priebus’ ouster was made public, praised Priebus’ “poker face,” to pool reporters.

“We didn’t even know it,” King said, according to a pool report. “We were sitting right across from him and he kept a poker face.”

According to the pool report, “King said the president told the congressmen as they were about to get off that he as going to announce Kelly as chief of staff.”

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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