The already deteriorating relationship between President Donald Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly is being torn asunder as the two clash over Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, according to a Monday Politico report.
Though the two men have long been at loggerheads over Nielsen—Kelly reportedly considers her a “surrogate daughter” while Trump enjoys flagellating her at Cabinet meetings—the explosive atmosphere around the administration’s border separation policy has inflamed the pre-existing tensions.
Per Politico, Kelly tried to talk Nielsen out of giving a press conference on the issue Monday, but she disregarded his advice, willingly becoming the administration’s poster child for separating families at the border.
Internally, she reportedly took issue with the “zero tolerance” immigration policy, viewing it as difficult to enforce without congressional action. She changed her tune when given a talking-to about staying on message.
However, Nielsen’s consent to take the brunt of the bullets from an increasingly unpopular policy has paid her no dividends with the boss. Per Politico, Trump has Nielsen square in his phaser beams, targeting his wrath on her as criticism pours in from both sides of the aisle.
Nielsen reportedly seems to be in an increasingly perilous situation, as Trump’s dislike—which he has sustained since she began in his White House, due to her Bush administration origins—grows and Kelly’s influence wanes.
According to Politico, Kelly and Trump’s relationship has devolved into “barely tolerating” each other, and Kelly has accordingly checked out of the difficult job of being the West Wing’s enforcer. He reportedly mused to a friend that if Trump is given the latitude to get himself impeached, at least this chapter of American politics will be over.
Kelly has reportedly been spending chunks of his days at the gym in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the pain of a workout far preferable to the pain of taking responsibility for an impetuous and bombastic president.