White House chief of staff John Kelly told a handful of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday that President Trump’s stance on a wall between the U.S. and Mexico has evolved since the campaign. Then, in an apparent bid to ensure that Trump saw the remarks, he went on Fox News and said the same thing.
“He has evolved in the way he’s looked at things,” Kelly told Bret Baier after taking credit for showing Trump that there are parts of the border where a wall doesn’t make sense. “Campaign to governing are two different things and this president has been very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realm of the possible.”
Asked if Mexico is going to pay for the wall, as Trump has claimed, Kelly said, “In one way or another, it’s possible, that we could get the revenue from Mexico, but not directly from their government.”
On Thursday morning, it was clear Trump saw Kelly’s interview and he didn’t like it.
At Axios, Jonathan Swan described the exchange as “one of the first public signs we’ve seen of tension between Trump and his chief of staff” and referred to it as a “Steve Bannon moment.”
The Times on Wednesday noted that what happened in public with Kelly and Trump has been going on in private for some time.
But in telling lawmakers that Mr. Trump had essentially erred from the start in promoting a wall and by claiming credit for dissuading him, Mr. Kelly appeared to be voicing a sentiment some in the West Wing have heard him express privately — that it is his job to tutor a sometimes ill-informed president who has never served in public office before.
In a tweet, Times Trump-whisperer Maggie Haberman notes that the president’s “annoyance” with Kelly has been growing, noting the low morale in the Kelly era. It’s clear after Thursday morning’s tweets, though, that Kelly has much more tutoring to do before his inevitable White House departure. Maybe for his next lesson he can explain how trade deficits work.