Glutton for Punishment: John Kelly Promises Trump He’ll Stay on As Chief of Staff Through 2020

Is Kelly a masochist for sticking around, or just really stubborn? Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

White House chief of staff John Kelly, who has been rumored on an almost daily basis to be on the brink of quitting or being fired from practically the moment he entered the West Wing just over a year ago, is doubling down on his miserable job, according to The Wall Street Journal:

White House chief of staff John Kelly told staff on Monday that President Trump had asked him to remain in his post through the 2020 election, White House officials said, a request that comes as tensions between the two men have eased in recent months.

Mr. Kelly told staff he agreed to the president’s request, one of the officials said.

There had been lots of speculation that Kelly would soon be replaced by Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney or the vice-president’s chief of staff Nick Ayers. The Washington Post reports that both men were in the room and “listened quietly” when Kelly made his announcement. (It might have been more interesting and revealing if one or both of them had leapt up and stormed out of the room, but no dice.) So far no one is claiming that Kelly’s relationship with Trump is anything other than grudgingly tolerable, sounding more like a old, bad marriage than a relatively new, dysfunctional employment situation. But the frequently unhappy-looking former general is, for the time being, saluting the flag and doing his duty, such as it is.

Gabriel Sherman, who had previously documented Kelly’s misery and ineffectiveness in some detail, has a theory that he’s actually getting his revenge on Trump by sticking around, since POTUS wants him to quit but is reluctant to fire him. “Kelly is essentially calling Trump’s bluff,” says Sherman. If that’s true, it’s a very twisted way for a place as important as the White House to be run. If Kelly does indeed stay through 2020, and Trump loses his reelection, you could almost imagine the chief of staff alternatively laughing and crying at having ridden this wild tiger to the very end.

Masochist John Kelly Promises Trump to Stay on Through 2020