WASHINGTON – Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is a battle-hardened commander who would bring a background of military discipline and order to President Donald Trump’s roiling White House as the new chief of staff.
Kelly’s experience as Homeland Security secretary and a veteran of three tours in Iraq — along with a sobering family tragedy — suggests he’ll be a loyal manager for Trump when he starts the job Monday.
“He has been a true star of my administration,” the president tweeted Friday, announcing that his current secretary of homeland security was in, and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was out. Trump called Kelly a “great leader” and “great American.” He called Priebus, ousted after a tumultuous six months, a “good man.”
As Homeland Security secretary, Kelly has taken the lead on some of Trump’s most controversial policies, including his executive orders suspending the admission of refugees and temporarily barring visitors from several Muslim-majority nations. Those orders have been stripped down by courts pending a Supreme Court review this fall.
People who know Kelly told The Associated Press that he was not aware of the details of the initial orders until around the time that Trump signed it. Yet, just days after taking office, he had to lead the agency as it dealt with the chaos and confusion that ensued at airports in the U.S. and around the world. He defended the orders to reporters and lawmakers and insisted he indeed had been part of the decision-making process.