President Donald Trump fired his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, last night, naming Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to replace him. This is the latest White House shakeup, as the administration struggles to emerge from bitter staff infighting and a stalled legislative agenda.
Trump announced the abrupt reshuffle in three posts on Twitter hours after the Senate killed his latest plans to rewrite President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, dealing another harsh blow to the White House.
The tweets, sent as Trump was returning to Washington on Air Force One with Priebus from a speech on gang violence in New York, caught Capitol Hill and others off-guard even though Priebus’ standing in Trump’s inner circle has been in sharp decline for some time.
In announcing Kelly’s appointment, Trump called the retired Marine Corps general “a Great American” who has “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. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!” Trump said in another tweet.
Trump did not say who he will nominate to replace Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security, one of the government’s largest departments. Its agencies are responsible for immigration, border security, counterterrorism, and other areas that are administration priorities.
Priebus was an odd fit in the Trump White House from the beginning. He chaired the Republican National Committee before joining the administration of a divisive political leader who campaigned as an outsider and drew broad skepticism from within the GOP establishment.
Trump’s unconventional management style made Priebus’ job especially difficult. The president allowed multiple aides and others to gain direct access to the Oval Office, cutting out the chief of staff’s usual role as a gatekeeper and diminishing his authority.
Priebus was further undermined this week when Trump’s incoming communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, openly feuded with him. In a profanity-laced phone call to a reporter with The New Yorker, Scaramucci suggested that Priebus had leaked information about him. He also called him a “paranoid schizophrenic”.
Trump said nothing to back Priebus or reprimand Scaramucci as the feud hit the headlines. Many inside and outside the White House wondered if Priebus still had the president’s confidence.