President Donald Trump has fired Reince Priebus as chief of staff, replacing him with Homeland Security Secretary Gen (rtd) John Kelly, amid growing tensions at the White House due to infighting among top staffers.
“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump told his more than 34.8 million followers on twitter soon after his return from New York.
“He is a Great American and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration,” Trump said.
The latest shakeup of the White House leadership comes as the feud between Priebus and the new Communication Director Anthony Scaramucci went nasty over the past few days, hogging the media limelight.
Scaramucci was appointed the new White House Communication Director on July 21. Soon after, Sean Spicer had resigned as the White House Press Secretary in protest.
Trump also promoted his Deputy Sarah Sanders as the new White House Press Secretary.
Before being appointed as the White House Chief of Staff, Priebus was the chairman of the Republican National Committee, in which capacity he played a key role in Trump’s presidential election.
Kelly has been a staunch supporter of Trump, during his election campaign days.He previously served as the former Commander of US Southern Command and was the commanding general of the Multi-National Force West in Iraq from February 2008 to February 2009.
As Secretary of Homeland Security, Kelly has played a key role in the border security of the Trump Administration.
Read | 'Buffet of options' on paying for wall: White House
Over the last few weeks, Trump has expressed frustration over the White House leaks.
With a retired general in charge of his White House now, the president hopes to bring in some discipline and end the current mess inside the White House.Later in a statement, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Kelly would begin his new responsibility Monday morning.
“General John Kelly is one of the true stars of the Administration. He has helped seal the border and reduce illegal immigration by 70 per cent,” she said.
“He is respected by everyone, especially the people at the Department of Homeland Security. The entire Administration loves him and no one is comparable. He will begin on Monday morning and a cabinet meeting will follow his swearing in,” Sanders said.
In a tweet, Trump thanked Priebus for his service.
“I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!” he said.Sanders said Priebus was loyal in his dedication to the President.
“The President thanks him and his family for his great service to the country, and he will always be a member of the Trump Team,” she said.
In a written statement, Priebus said it has been one of the greatest honours of his life to serve the President and the country.
“I want to thank the president for giving me this very special opportunity. I will continue to serve as a strong supporter of the President’s agenda and policies,” he said.
“I can’t think of a better person than General John Kelly to succeed me and I wish him God’s blessings and great success,” Priebus said.
Sanders told reporters that Trump began the process of appointing a new chief of staff some two weeks back.
Congressman Peter King who accompanied Trump aboard Air Force One to New York and back, told reporters that during the flight, he saw no indication of Priebus’ exit.
In fact, he chatted with Priebus repeatedly during the flight.
“We didn’t even know it. We were sitting right across from him and he kept a poker face,” King said, referring to Priebus.
King said the president told him as they were about to get off that he was going to announce Kelly as chief of staff.
Asked what Priebus said during the flight, King repeated: “Good poker face, showed nothing”.
In a statement, Kelly said he was honoured to be asked to serve as the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States.
“To the tremendous men and women of DHS, I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Secretary,” he said.
“When I left the Marines, I never thought I would find as committed, as professional, as patriotic a group of individuals. I was wrong. You accomplish great things everyday defending our nation and I know your exceptional work will continue,” Kelly said in a statement to the employees of the Department of Homeland Security.