Fox in the Henhouse: Can John Kelly Be Trusted?
While some of President Trump’s supporters are happy to see the last of the establishment-loyal Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff, others are not so thrilled with the man who is taking his place. Gen. John Kelly, by all accounts, was doing a bang-up job as director of Homeland Security, and he might bring the discipline that the White House needs right now. On the other hand, a couple of recent stories shed light on some major concerns about the man who will now control Trump’s day-to-day agenda. Kelly may not be beholden to the Republican textbook…but is he loyal to the ideology of the president he serves?
According to a recent story in The New Yorker, Gen. Kelly spoke two weeks ago at a private meeting with current and former members of the U.S. national security community in Aspen, Colorado. At that meeting, say sources, Kelly said that he had spoken long and often with the president about his proposed border wall and was fairly certain he had persuaded Trump to back off his campaign promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Instead,” the piece stated, “the use of sophisticated monitoring technology, air surveillance, and fencing could secure the border with what Trump could start calling a ‘barrier.’
“To the officials in the room, it was a fascinating admission,” The New Yorker continued. “Kelly seemed to be suggesting that he was one of the few people who might be able to tame Trump and get him to back off some of his most cartoonish policy ideas, even the ones that were core campaign promises.”
The other story comes from CNN, so take it with a grain of salt. According to the network, two sources said that after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Gen. Kelly was so outraged by the insulting, long-distance method of the firing that he called Comey and said he was thinking about resigning himself in protest.
“John was angry and hurt by what he saw and the way (Comey) was treated,” one of the sources said.
Comey learned of his dismissal on May 9 from televisions tuned to the news as he was addressing the workforce at the FBI office in Los Angeles, law enforcement sources said at the time. Comey made a joke about it to lighten the mood and called his office to get confirmation.
Comey, who took Kelly’s call while traveling back from Los Angeles to Washington, responded to Kelly by telling him not to resign, one of the sources said.
The sources said Comey and Kelly are not close friends but that they had a professional relationship and a deep mutual respect for each other.
Are these red flags? We’ll wait to reserve judgement. Trump doesn’t necessarily benefit by surrounding himself with yes-men, so it doesn’t concern us that Kelly differs from the president on this policy or that one. It merely raises the question of whether or not Kelly is truly “Team Trump.” The president MUST have loyal supporters in the White House if he is to overcome the astonishing opposition to his agenda. If Kelly can be a voice of reason to counteract Trump’s tendency towards pure, instinctual reaction, that’s a good thing. If, on the other hand, he is there to stifle the president with tiresome echoes of stagnant deep-state thought, the administration is in no better shape than it was last week.