John Kelly, the retired Marine general tapped as chief of staff by President Donald Trump last year to bring order to his chaotic White House, will leave the job by the end of the year, Trump said Saturday, the latest departure from the president’s inner circle after a bruising midterm election for his party.
Trump, speaking with reporters on the White House lawn before departing for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, said that he would announce a replacement for Kelly in the next day or two.
“John Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring,’” Trump said. “But he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.”
The leading candidate to replace Kelly is Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s 36-year-old chief of staff and a Republican political operative, who possesses the kind of savvy about campaigns that Trump has craved. Kelly, a career military officer before becoming Trump’s first homeland security secretary, lacked such experience.
Kelly’s coming departure leaves Trump with an ever-shrinking team of close advisers as he begins to navigate the new power structure on Capitol Hill that will be ushered in next month when Democrats assume control of the House.
Although the president had made a display of saying that Kelly, 68, would stay through the 2020 re-election effort, the chief of staff was blunt with several people in the White House that he planned to make it only through the midterms.
Presidents typically make changes in staffing after midterm elections.
Kelly’s departure adds another prominent name to the list of core advisers who have left after trying to manage the president through his nearly two years in office, often finding themselves shunned and sidelined for their efforts.
Kelly’s resignation had long been rumored, amid signs that he and Trump had grown irritated with each other. The president — as freewheeling as Kelly is methodical — privately fumed that he thought his chief was hiding things from him, and frequently upbraided him in the West Wing on matters large and small.