President Trump confirmed Saturday that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly will leave by the end of the year, capping the retired Marine general’s rocky tenure as the president’s top aide.
Trump had previously said Kelly would serve as his chief of staff through 2020, but their clashes were an open secret. Nick Ayers, who currently serves as Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, is widely expected to be Kelly’s replacement.
As he left for Philadelphia Saturday, Trump told reporters that he would announce the new chief of staff in the “next day or two” and noted that Kelly has been with him for nearly two years. Kelly has served as the White House chief of staff since July 2017, although before that position, he was Trump’s homeland security secretary, confirmed the day Trump was inaugurated.
“John Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring,’” Trump said on the South Lawn of the White House. “But, he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.”
Trump has already engaged in talks with Ayers about assuming the chief of staff role, according to his advisers. In private, Trump has often commented on Kelly’s lack of political skills — a potential liability from Trump’s standpoint as the president gears up for his 2020 reelection campaign.
Trump has also chafed at Kelly’s management style and resisted some of his moves to instill discipline in the West Wing and contain chaos. In recent months, the chief of staff’s power has ebbed, and administration policies and decisions have been guided more by the president’s gut instincts than by Kelly’s processes.