President Trump is chafing under Chief of Staff John Kelly’s control and is finding ways around it, according to a report.
Kelly has tried to control who the president talks to, but Trump is continuing to call business friends and outside advisers, including former chief strategist Steve Bannon, the report by the Washington Post said.
Trump calls Bannon and others from his personal phone when Kelly is not around, the report said.
“Donald Trump resists being handled,” Roger Stone, former Trump adviser and longtime confidant, told the Post.
“Nobody tells him who to see, who to listen to, what to read, what he can say,” he said. “General Kelly is trying to treat the president like a mushroom. Keeping him in the dark and feeding him s— is not going to work. Donald Trump is a free spirit.”
Whereas before friends could call the White House and be patched through to the president, now his calls are routed through Kelly and do not always make it to the president, the report said. Friends used to be able to drop by the West Wing, but now they must have an official appointment and a clear reason to visit.
Some Trump loyalists derisively dub Kelly “the church lady,” the report said.
Kelly is reportedly reviewing White House staff and is “said to be targeting aides without clear portfolios or responsibility.”
So far, most if not all of the White House staffers who have been removed, pushed out, or resigned have been Trump loyalists who were with him during the campaign.
Trump “doesn’t like” how Kelly is handling him, the report said.
At the same time, he is “quietly fuming” over National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn’s public criticism of his response to the events in Charlottesville, even after they spoke privately.
He has “grown increasingly frustrated” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose approach the president says is “totally establishment.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters earlier this week that Trump “absolutely” has confidence in Tillerson.
Barry Bennett, a former campaign adviser, told the Post that it’s “not unusual” for Trump to bluster about things.
“That doesn’t mean it’s real. There were people on the campaign staff that he said to fire a dozen times, but he never did it. It was just bark. And some people don’t know the difference between the bark and the bite,” he said.