John Kelly has had a few months to reflect on his tumultuous tenure as White House Chief of Staff. And though he’s apparently forgiven the president for the angry tweets and public rebukes, which helped fuel persistent rumors about his impending firing, the former general still holds a grudge against his former West Wing antagonist: Javanka.
Those who have been following the Trump administration drama since the beginning might remember that, after initially welcoming Kelly as a “steady hand” and “adult in the room” who would bring order to a chaotic West Wing, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump swiftly turned on the former general, and their months-long power struggle become fodder for endless anonymously sourced reports and reprisals.
That feud apparently left a bad taste in Kelly’s mouth that just won’t go away. Which is probably why, five months after being ‘liberated’ from the West Wing, Kelly felt comfortable publicly expressing his distaste for the two – in his own reserved way, not mentioning the couple by name – Trump Administration senior advisors during an interview with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg TV.
Kelly told Rubenstein that members of the Trump family serving in the administration needed to be “dealt with” – even if Kelly wasn’t the one to do it.
“They were an influence that has to be dealt with,” Kelly said Tuesday during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “The David Rubenstein Show,” when asked whether it was complicated to have the president’s family working at the White House. “By no means do I mean Mrs. Trump – the first lady’s a wonderful person.”
The Marine general sat for the interview in Las Vegas, where he was attending Anthony Scaramucci’s SALT conference (ironic because one of the first things Kelly did after arriving in the West Wing was fire Scaramucci over an unhinged rant published in the New Yorker where Scaramucci accused Steve Bannon of trying to “suck his own c*ck”). And in what sounded suspiciously like ingratitude toward his host, Kelly said he had removed a few “very disruptive” people from the administration after arriving in the West Wing, and was struck by the “intense personal ambition” of some of his staffers.
Ultimately, Kelly believes he succeeded in implementing a processes and protocols that helped serve the president.
“I was able to staff a president the way I think a president should be staffed,” Kelly said, while conceding that the job was among the hardest he had ever held.
Kelly left the Trump administration at the end of last year, after nearly two tumultuous years leading the Department of Homeland Security and then the White House. His acting replacement, Mick Mulvaney, has criticized Kelly’s handling of the chief of staff job, saying the retired Marine Corps general often depressed morale by complaining about the difficulty of working for the president.
Kelly said he believed that by implementing regular processes to vet possible decisions, he was able to better serve Trump. Before his arrival at the White House, he said, the “right level of staff work wasn’t done” on certain policy issues, including a zero-tolerance immigration policy that led to family separations.
Kelly also defended his policy of limiting access to the Oval Office, saying he was simply trying to make sure Trump heard all sides of an issue before coming to a decision.
“It was never going to be a one-sided conversation,” Kelly said.
He also tersely offered his take on one of the most explosive moments of Trump’s presidency – when Trump said there were “good people on both sides” during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville.
He was trying to say “that there were good people in the crowd.”
“Whether that was articulated properly, I don’t know,” Kelly said.
Watch the full interview below: