Trump vs. Kelly: Ivanka Reportedly Leading Search for New Chief of Staff

Trump's unhappiness with his Chief of Staff John Kelly apparently stems from an incident last week in which Trump rebuked Kelly for saying that his views on the boarder wall had evolved

U.S. President Donald Trump introduces his daughter Ivanka to speak during a visit to H&K Equipment Company in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, January 18, 2018
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

 Vanity Fair published an explosive report Monday quoting sources "close to the White House" saying that Donald Trump is looking to replace his Chief of Staff John Kelly. 

“The more Kelly plays up that he’s being the adult in the room - that it’s basically combat duty and he’s serving the country - that kind of thing drives Trump nuts,” Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman quoted a Republican as saying.

Sherman added that, "Ivanka [Trump] is also playing a central role in the search, quietly field-testing ideas with people. 'Ivanka is the most worried about it. She’s trying to figure who replaces Kelly.'"

Sherman did note that another source claimed nothing will happen quickly as, "He [Kelly] wants to stay longer than Reince [Priebus]" - Trump's first chief of staff. The report also claimed that this may just be a "Sessions moment" - meaning that Trump may just be blowing off steam in an attempt to get Kelly in line.

Trump's unhappiness with Kelly apparently stems from an incident last week in which Trump insisted his views on a border wall with Mexico have not evolved, pushing back against his own chief of staff’s comments to lawmakers.

Trump said on Twitter last Thursday: “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”

Some Democrats who met with White House chief of staff John Kelly on Wednesday say Kelly told them parts of the border don’t need a wall — and that Trump didn’t know that when making campaign promises.

Trump tweeted Thursday that some of the wall will be “see through,” and he wrote that the wall was never supposed to be built where there are natural barriers. He added that it “will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.”

Kelly’s assertion that Trump’s views on immigration had evolved came as lawmakers try to reach accord on protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation, a push the White House and Republicans say they would back, if it’s coupled with tough border security measures and other restrictions.

Trump tweeted Thursday, “If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!” He said the U.S. needs a wall “to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world.”

Kelly made the remarks about Trump and the wall Wednesday at a closed-door meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, participants said, and he made similar comments later on Fox News Channel.

Kelly said on Fox he told the caucus that “they all say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.” He said Trump has “very definitely changed his attitude” toward protecting the young immigrants, “and even the wall, once we briefed him.”

“So he has evolved in the way he’s looked at things,” Kelly said. “Campaign to governing are two different things and this president has been very, very flexible in terms of what is within the realms of the possible.”

Kelly’s comments were noteworthy because they openly acknowledged the difference between campaign promises and governing, and even suggested that Trump needed to be educated on the subject.

They also come as lawmakers struggle to reach a bipartisan deal protecting “dreamers” — around 800,000 people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children and could be deported without legal protections. Part of negotiators’ problem has been uncertainty over what Trump would accept.

“He’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Wednesday. “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I will be convinced that we would not just be spinning our wheels going to this issue on the floor.”

Trump’s tweets on Thursday were hardly the first time his words have been in conflict with comments by a senior aide. Among other clashes, he has repeatedly undercut Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Some lawmakers who met with Kelly Wednesday recounted his remarks.

“He specifically said that there’s some areas of the border that didn’t need the wall, and that the president didn’t know that when he was making his campaign promises,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said in a brief interview.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Luis, Gutierrez, D-Ill., said Kelly told them that “there were statements made about the wall that were not informed statements. In other words, I’ve informed the president of what it takes to build a wall, so here’s how we’re going to do it. That’s what I understood, and all of that was helpful.”

Many Democrats have said that without an immigration deal in sight, they’ll vote against a Republican bill preventing a weekend government shutdown. Congressional passage must come by Friday to prevent an election-year shutdown of federal agencies that could be damaging to both parties.

During his presidential campaign, Trump made it a mantra to promise to build a “beautiful” wall that would be paid for by Mexico. Supporters at his rallies often chanted, “Build that wall.”

White House officials have repeatedly said it doesn’t have to be a concrete wall from coast to coast but could include large stretches of fencing, technology or other systems. Trump also now wants Congress to provide taxpayer money to finance it.