Priebus Out as Chief of Staff, Replaced with Trump 'Star' John Kelly

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and other West Wing officials listen to President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau conduct a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 13, 2017. (Rex Features via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The day after the New Yorker released new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity-laced rant about White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, President Trump announced on Twitter that the former Republican National Committee chairman is out.


“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American and a Great Leader,” Trump tweeted. “John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration.”

“I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country,” Trump added. “We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!”

In his six months at Homeland Security, Kelly has overseen ramped up immigration enforcement. The House moved this week to allocate $1.6 billion for 70 miles of Trump’s border wall, amid input from border security officials about how much wall is needed and where alternate methods of enforcement would be a better investment.

Trump had effusive praise for Kelly at an afternoon speech with law enforcement officers today in Brentwood, N.Y., calling the Homeland Security chief “incredible, one of our real stars. Truly one of our stars.”

“And in fact the southern border of Mexico we did them a big favor, believe me. They get very little traffic in there anymore, because they know they’re not going to get through the border to the United States,” he said. “So, that whole group has been incredible, led by General Kelly.”

Priebus and Scaramucci flew together on Air Force One to the New York event, but the White House press pool reported they didn’t see the communications director on the plane for the return trip. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who flew with them, called it “a very interesting situation, I’ll leave it at that.”


Scaramucci was appointed director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs in January, sparking internal administration feuding linked to Priebus, the former RNC chairman, during his Office of Government Ethics vetting process. In March, the role went to Ideagen founder and former George W. Bush administration staffer George Sifakis.

In appointing Scaramucci last week, something Priebus reportedly advised against, the White House said he would report directly to Trump instead of to Priebus. That chain of command reportedly won’t change with Kelly’s appointment.

On Wednesday, Politico published a story that the reporter later said was based not on a leak but on Scaramucci’s publicly available financial disclosure form at the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci thought it was a private document leaked by Priebus. “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” he tweeted, later deleting the tweet.

On Wednesday evening, Scaramucci called New Yorker Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza, demanding to know who had leaked the news of his White House dinner with Sean Hannity, the president, the first lady and former Fox News executive Bill Shine. When Lizza wouldn’t tell him, Scaramucci threatened to fire all of the White House staff.


“They’ll all be fired by me,” Scaramucci said, according to Lizza’s report of the call, which he said Scaramucci did not ask to be off the record. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” He went on to call Priebus “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” proceeding to mock what he’d imagine Priebus saying: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ”

Scaramucci tweeted Thursday evening after publication: “I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda.”

Asked about the feud Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defended his “very close friend” Priebus.

“Reince is doing a fantastic job at the White House, and I believe he has the president’s confidence,” Ryan told reporters a day before Trump tweeted that Priebus is now gone. “So if –if — if those two gentlemen have differences, my advice would be to sit down and settle their differences.”

Ryan released a statement after Trump’s announcement praising Priebus as someone who “has left it all out on the field, for our party and our country.”


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

After Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews today, Priebus quickly got into a car without answering questions.

“Reince is a good man,” Trump told reporters before getting into his motorcade. “John Kelly will do a fantastic job.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told CNN that he thinks the Kelly appointment will be well-received on Capitol Hill from “a bipartisan place,” and suggested that a general could bring more discipline to a chaotic West Wing. “I think he’s going to do a good job… seems like Reince had his hands full,” Manchin said.

Retired USMC Gen. John Kelly, the former commander of United States Southern Command, passed the Senate 88-11 and wasn’t considered a controversial nominee; the White House chief of staff position requires no Senate confirmation. At his January DHS confirmation hearing, Kelly said that homegrown terrorism should be confronted starting with “families, churches, synagogues, mosques” and also emphasized that a border wall alone won’t secure the United States. He stressed that battling drug use north of the border and helping build safer communities south of the border are key to stopping illegal cross-border traffic.


“A physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job,” Kelly told lawmakers, saying any border fence has to be part of a comprehensive “layered defense.” The fence, he added, “starts 1,500 miles south partnering with some great countries” to stop problems at the source.

This story was updated at 6 p.m. EST 


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