White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has called President Donald Trump “an idiot” on multiple occasions, mocking the President’s lack of policy expertise and ignorance of basic government functions, according to a Monday afternoon NBC News report.
Some White House sources denied that Kelly ever used the term. Kelly issued a statement soon after the report was published, calling the story “total BS.”
“This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes,” he said.
Others say that Kelly’s critiques of Trump’s intelligence are standard fare around the White House, particularly surfacing on the topic of immigration. “He doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot,” Kelly reportedly said in a meeting. “We’ve got to save him from himself.”
Kelly also reportedly credited himself for scuttling a bipartisan deal on DACA, claiming he saved the President from making a “hasty deal.”
The two men’s relationship has reportedly been unraveling recently, and the NBC report points to some hallmarks in the deterioration. Trump bristled when Kelly pushed Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of homeland security when Trump favored Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, according to NBC. When it came time to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, Trump reportedly sidestepped Kelly altogether and chose John Bolton, who was not a Kelly pick.
Trump was also angered when Kelly bungled former aide Rob Porter’s firing and Kelly pushed his staff to spread the false timeline that he had ousted Porter less than an hour after he found out about the charges.
A passage from James Comey’s memoir has also reportedly gotten under Trump’s skin, in which Kelly tells Comey that he wanted to quit soon after the former FBI director was fired to avoid working for “dishonorable people.” Kelly has since denied characterizing the President that way.
Per NBC, observers expected Kelly to quit in June at his one-year anniversary, but growing tensions between him and the President may compel him to resign earlier.