President Donald Trump said Friday that he had replaced his chief of staff Reince Priebus with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
Trump, who announced the move on Twitter, did not say whether he had fired Priebus or whether Priebus had resigned, but the former Republican National Committee chairman said he tendered his resignation to the president on Thursday.
The move came a day after his new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, accused Priebus of leaking information to reporters in a profanity-laced tirade.
“I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American…” the president wrote, continuing in a second tweet with “…and a Great Leader. John has also done a spectacular job at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my Administration.”
Priebus said he was aware of Kelly’s appointment. “Yeah, we talked. I resigned privately yesterday.”
Kelly, 67, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, will assume the chief of staff post on Monday. He was hired with the goal of bringing more discipline to the White House, a senior White House official said.
Incoming White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump and Priebus had begun discussing the exit “about two weeks ago.” She did not directly answer whether it was a firing or a resignation. “We all serve at the pleasure of the president,” Sanders told reporters.
In just over six months in office, Trump has shed his first national security adviser (Michael Flynn), communications director (Mike Dubke), press secretary (Sean Spicer), deputy chief of staff (Katie Walsh), deputy national security adviser (K.T. McFarland) and now his chief of staff. His attorney general, Republican former senator Jeff Sessions, has been in an increasingly tenuous position, with the president openly criticising him, but stopping short of firing him or asking him to resign.
Priebus never managed to assert himself as a traditional a chief of staff in Trump’s profoundly unorthodox White House. He never controlled access to the president, did not manage the mercurial commander in chief’s time, and his power to hire and fire was perpetually questioned by rivals for West Wing power.
Aides also said Trump had never completely forgiven Priebus for suggesting he quit the 2016 presidential race after the release of an audio recording in which Trump seemed to brag about getting away with sexual assault.
Speaking to reporters as he arrived back in Washington from Long Island, N.Y. — where earlier Friday he delivered a speech on gang violence — Trump praised Kelly calling him “a great great American” and added that Priebus is “a good man.”