WASHINGTON (AP) — White House chief of staff John Kelly said Monday that a report that he called President Donald Trump an idiot is “total BS.”
Kelly, in a statement, said he and Trump have “an incredibly candid and strong relationship.”
He added, “He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS.”
NBC reported Monday that Kelly has on multiple occasions criticized Trump’s knowledge on issues like immigration, and has cast himself as a protecting the country from Trump’s impulses. The report added that Trump was growing tired of Kelly’s attitude.
In recent months, Trump has chafed at Kelly’s controlling management style, and has occasionally talked with friends about replacing him. In his early days in the White House, Kelly imposed strict controls on access and the flow of information to Trump, though his direct influence has waned somewhat, aides said. Kelly allies insist he has merely trained the staff to follow his management protocols, but officials note that Trump has grown more willing to act unilaterally, ignoring or simply not seeking out the advice of his top aide.
Kelly’s handling of domestic violence accusations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter earlier this year caused consternation among White House staffers, who believed he wasn’t truthful.
The public revelation of an insult directed at the president’s intelligence is reminiscent of leaks last year that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.” That episode created what White House officials described as an irreparable rift between Trump and his chief diplomat, and ultimately led to Tillerson’s unceremonious March firing.
Kelly said NBC’s report “is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”