On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray provided a timeline that undercuts the White Houses contention that Chief of Staff John Kelly didnt become fully aware of the spousal abuse allegations lodged at former staff secretary Rob Porter until Feb. 7.
During Capitol Hill testimony, Wray said that the White House first received a report on Porter in March of last year, that a follow-up inquiry was issued in November, and that the file was closed in January.
The obvious question is: Should Kelly stay or go?
When Kelly replaced Reince Priebus to become White House chief of staff, there was hope that he would (a) bring discipline, efficiency, competence, and logistical order to a chaotic White House operation, and (b) use his gravitas to provide some adult supervision to a president who was deficient of character and temperament.
These were both heavy lifts (a chief of staff works for the president so theres only so much he can do), but while Kelly seemed to have made improvements in the former (to the degree that anyone could possibly bring order to this White House), he has utterly failed in the latterif he ever even tried.
Donald Trump has many impulses that probably should be balanced against. To be sure, the president gets the final word, but having strong personalities who can recognize when he is being tone deaf is a good idea. For example, Trump obviously doesnt give a shit about womens allegations of abuse or harassment. He stuck by Roy Moore, for crying out loud. Hestarted calling Bannon Bam-Bamover his domestic abuse allegations. Uh, really not funny.
Could it be that a 67-year-old Marine isnt the best-cast person to balance Donald Trumps misogynistic tendencies?
For a while, I thought Kelly was pretty good at logistics, but terrible at any sort of moral leadership.
But now, Im starting to wonder if I was wrong about Kellys competence, too. Consider what just happened purely from a security standpoint. As staff secretary, Porter had been privy to highly classified information, despite having only a temporary security clearance. Even if one dismisses the credible allegations of abuse, the lack of a security clearance alone should have disqualified Porter from serving in this capacity.
Of course, Porter isnt alone here. Jared Kushner has no full clearance after more than a year. Thats a sign of a problem. And yet, he reads the Presidents Daily Brief in the morning. How is this allowed to happen?
Regardless, the Porter scandal wasnt Kellys first big slip up. Last year, he refused to apologize for wrongly attacking Rep. Frederica Wilson, accusing her of inappropriately grabbing credit for a project in her district even though video evidence showed she had not done so, and recently suggested that DREAMers who didnt sign up for DACA were lazy or afraid.
What we are left with is the fact that I have just spent 500 or so words making a pretty compelling case for why Kelly should be removed from his post.
He was, after all, hired to solve problems, and yet he is creating them. He was expected to (at least, partly) temper Trumps worst impulses, and instead, he seems to be reinforcing them.
If we were to judge Kelly based on the criteria of having demonstrated competence and a strong character, this mounting evidence should, in a normal world, justify firing Kelly. But this isnt a normal world. The truth is that Kelly is probably as good as it gets.
The notion that he has lost credibility with his team supposes that their standards are higher than they have demonstrated. The notion that he has lost credibility with the press suggests that he is attempting to defend the indefensiblewhich is another way of saying he works for Donald Trump.
The idea that anyone could reign in Trump more than Kelly has seems like wishful thinking. If a Marine general cant do this job, good luck finding someone who can.
Donald Trump leaves a trail of professional corpses in his wake. Whether Kelly was changed or the real Kelly was simply revealed by virtue of being placed in this role, Kellys reputation has been irreparably diminished by virtue of attempting to serve this president.
Still, Ill support Kellys ouster the second anyone can name a replacement who can do a better job of keeping Donald Trump on the straight and narrow.
I wont hold my breath.