White House chief of staff John Kelly was meant to curtail the chaos, defuse the drama and straighten out an unruly West Wing hampered by a constant stream of distractions.
But the retired Marine general has found himself at the center of more than one crisis over the past seven months and is now facing new pressure as questions swirl about his defense of an ex-White House aide accused of abusing his two ex-wives.
The uproar over two senior members of the White House staff stepping down has led to calls for Kelly’s resignation, an offer he has reportedly made, and experts are questioning how much longer he’ll stay by President Trump’s side.
The aftershocks of White House staff secretary Rob Porter and speechwriter David Sorensen’s resignations reverberated amid concerns about access to classified information and about how long senior staffers knew about Porter’s exes’ claims of violent abuse.
Porter worked closely with Kelly and was a member of Trump’s inner circle. Trump says he only found out about the allegations over the last week.
Kelly’s mishandling of the situation has experts doubting he’ll last much longer in a White House renowned for its high turnover rate. Trump has already begun floating possible names for a replacement among advisers, according to multiple reports.
“If he makes it to 2019, either Trump has changed or John Kelly is Superman in a general’s outfit,” Scott Talan, a communications professor at American University, told the Daily News.
A West Wing shakeup seems likely, Talan added, noting reports that communication director Hope Hicks has been dating Porter and White House counsel Don McGahn knew of the allegations against the Oval Office gatekeeper since last January.
But Kelly took the brunt of the blame after releasing conflicting statements about the situation, praising Porter as a “man of true integrity and honor” and presenting staffers with a bogus timeline of events on Friday.
A day earlier, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah offered a rare candid take on the situation.
“I think it’s fair to say we all could have done better over the few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation,” Shah told reporters.
Porter was reportedly encouraged by Kelly to keep his job even after a graphic photo of one of his former spouses sporting a black eye was made public.
The President fumed as scandal once again enveloped the White House, this time ensnaring the former Department of Homeland Security secretary he made his right hand man.
It’s not the first time the 67-year-old former four-star general backed a man facing such allegations.
He once defended a Marine colonel accused of sexually harassing two female subordinates, according to The New York Times.
Nor is it the first time Kelly has found himself courting controversy since becoming chief of staff.
The Boston native joined the White House in July, replacing Priebus, after serving as Trump’s Homeland Security czar.
He promised to impose military-style discipline in a West Wing bogged down by infighting and an impulsive President quick to unleash hair-trigger tweets.
But Kelly’s tenure was quickly embroiled in tumult.
A dejected-looking Kelly stood by, his head in his hands as Trump defended “both sides” after a woman was killed at a white nationalist rally in Virginia in August.
He then ruffled feathers himself by claiming that a “lack of ability to compromise” led to the Civil War and defended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as an “honorable man.”
Kelly also forcefully attacked a Florida congresswoman over insensitive remarks she claimed Trump made to the grieving widow of a soldier. And he then refused to apologize after video evidence discredited a negative story he told about the lawmaker.
And Kelly drew condemnation for saying that some eligible immigrants were “too lazy to get off their asses” and register in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I have my doubts about him going forward,” Dr. Bart Rossi, a political psychologist, told the Daily News when asked about Kelly’s future.
Calls for Kelly’s expulsion came quick as several lawmakers asked the White House for answers.
“Trump really doesn’t like anybody that gets into difficulty or trouble. And it’s pretty obvious that Kelly is in trouble with this,” Rossi said. “Trump doesn’t like anything that’s not going his way.”