Here's how John Kelly is trying to tame the Trump White House

John Kelly is taking charge of the West Wing
(Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

In his first week as President Trump's chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly has moved to rein in the chaos in Trump's White House "with a suddenness and force that have upended the West Wing," The New York Times reports. "Kelly cuts off rambling advisers midsentence. He listens in on conversations between Cabinet secretaries and the president. He has booted lingering staff members out of high-level meetings, and ordered the doors of the Oval Office closed to discourage strays."

Kelly isn't trying to control Trump himself, however, reportedly telling White House staff that he is there to manage them, not the president, his Twitter habits, or his TV viewing. "He has privately acknowledged that he cannot control the president and that his authority would be undermined if he tried and failed," the Times reports. Key to Kelly's strategy is vetting the information Trump is given to ensure it's accurate, and who delivers it, and he knows that won't be easy. Politico explains:

In the West Wing, many of the president's most controversial decisions have been attributed to bad information, partially because the president is easily swayed by the last person he has talked to — or the last thing he has read. For example, he accused President Barack Obama of tapping his phone line in Trump Tower after seeing comments from a conservative talk show host and a Breitbart News article. He has often posted some of his most controversial tweets while watching Fox News and stewing. [Politico]

Those who know Kelly, including former Pentagon bosses Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, describe him as blunt and honest. "John is the kind of guy who will look you in the eye and tell you what the hell he is thinking," Panetta tells the Times. "The real question is whether the president will give him the authority he needs to do the job." Gates said it's "a really important first step" that even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have agreed to go through Kelly, adding, "The question is, does it last?"

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Panetta, who's spoken with Kelly since he accepted the job, explains in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday night that he faced similar challenges when he became Bill Clinton's chief of staff in 1994, and lays out five "elements critical to improving White House operations." But Kelly can only enact them, Kelly adds, if "Trump is willing to make these changes."

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