White House Chief of Staff John Kelly formally leaves his post this Wednesday, Jan. 2, and he discussed his time with President Trump in an exit interview with the Los Angeles Times published Sunday.
Kelly described an administration in chaos on his arrival to the White House last summer. For example, Trump wanted to withdraw the United States from the war in Afghanistan, Kelly said, which "was a huge decision to make ... and frankly there was no system at all for a lot of reasons — palace intrigue and the rest of it." Pushing back on perceptions that Trump's decision-making is emotional and divorced from fact, Kelly said he kept Trump "fully informed" of the consequences of his choices.
He also spoke at length about immigration policy, faulting former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the administration's court-halted policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border. "What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation," Kelly said. "He surprised us."
As for Trump's promise to wall off the southern border, Kelly quibbled about terminology — "To be honest, it's not a wall" — but insisted a physical barrier is the recommendation of "salt-of-the-earth, Joe-Six-Pack" border patrol agents.
Working as Trump's chief of staff has been a "bone-crushing hard job," Kelly mused, "but you do it." Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney will do it next as acting chief of staff.
Read the full interview at the Los Angeles Times here.