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Every Major Moment of John Kelly’s Rise and Fall in Trump’s White House

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President Donald Trump put an end to speculation about Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s future Saturday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn before traveling to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy football game, Trump said that Kelly would leave his position at the end of the year.

The former Marine general has had an intense tenure in the Trump Administration, serving as Secretary of Homeland Security before taking over as Trump’s second White House chief of staff in July 2017.

Here’s a timeline of Kelly’s highs and lows with Trump.

Kelly calls Mexican border a ‘vulnerability’ to terrorism

In a report to Congress as head of U.S. Southern Command in March of 2015, Kelly writes that migration of “tens of thousands of people” from Central America and Mexico to “our nation’s doorstep” is a “potential vulnerability,” as terrorists could leverage those same routes.

Kelly calls domestic politics a ‘cesspool’

In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine published on July 11, 2016, Kelly criticizes both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both of whom are courting him, making little effort to hide his dislike of the “cesspool of domestic politics.” He declines to endorse either candidate but says he’d be willing to serve whoever wins.

Trump chooses Kelly to run Homeland Security

Various outlets report in December of 2016 that the Trump transition team has settled on Kelly as his choice to oversee Homeland Security, citing his experience leading Southern Command, which oversees immigration and cross-border problems in Central and South America, among other things.

Senate grills Kelly during confirmation hearing

During Senate confirmation hearings, Kelly breaks with Trump on some issues, arguing a border wall with Mexico alone would not solve illegal immigration. But he is unclear on what he thinks about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects 800,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Senate confirms Kelly

Kelly is overwhelmingly confirmed as secretary of Homeland Security in an 88-11 vote on Jan. 20, 2017.

Homeland Security issues memo to deport immigrants

Under Kelly, the Department of Homeland Security issues a sweeping memo on Feb. 21, 2017 instructing agents to deport every undocumented immigrant they encounter, a move that immigration advocates argue will dramatically increase the number of deportations.

Kelly says Congress should ‘shut up’

In a speech at George Washington University in April, Kelly says that Congress should put up or shut up on criticism of immigration enforcement priorities. “If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce—then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,” he says. “Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”

Kelly caught on open mic joking about the press

During a Coast Guard graduation, Kelly is caught on an open mic joking about a ceremonial sword given to Trump. “Use that on the press, sir,” he says, to Trump’s laughter.

Kelly rescinds Obama-era immigration order

In June 2017, Kelly rescinds an Obama Administration memo that sought to prevent 4 million parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders from being deported if they passed a criminal background check and satisfied other requirements.

Trump names Kelly chief of staff

In a decision that is a surprise to White House staffers, Trump replaces White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with Kelly on July 28, 2017.

Kelly fires Anthony Scaramucci

Asserting his new authority as chief of staff, Kelly fires White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci a mere 10 days after he was hired, partly in response to a crude interview he gave with the New Yorker.

Kelly looks uncomfortable during Charlottesville speech

Kelly folds his arms and hangs his head while Trump speaks about the “very fine people” on both sides of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., during a press conference on infrastructure at Trump Tower on Aug. 15, 2017. Video of Kelly looking uncomfortable circulates widely on the internet.

Kelly featured on cover of TIME magazine

Kelly appears on the cover of TIME’s Aug. 21, 2017 issue for a story on his new role as chief of staff with the cover line, “Trump’s Last Best Hope.”

John F. Kelly on the cover of TIME magazine. Photograph by Mike Morones—Military Times

Trump denies he and Kelly are at odds

After an August 2017 story in the Washington Post says that some of Trump’s friends fear the president is on a “collision course” with Kelly over restrictions he’s placed on the president, Trump takes to Twitter to defend Kelly, saying he “could not be happier or more impressed.”

Kelly gets caught ‘thinking hard’ during U.N. speech

John Kelly, Melania Trump
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly during President Donald Trump's speech at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 19, 2017.Mary Altaffer—AP

Photos of Kelly looking distressed during Trump’s September speech calling Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” before the United Nations go viral, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Kelly was probably tired, and Kelly himself later says the camera just caught him “thinking hard.”

Trump defends Kelly again

After a September 2017 CNN story says that Kelly is not happy with Trump’s decision to harshly criticize NFL players who protest during the national anthem, Trump again takes to Twitter to defend his chief of staff.

Kelly defends Trump

John F. Kelly
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly takes questions and talks about his son during the daily press briefing at the White House on Oct. 19, 2017.Getty Images

Speaking from the podium in the White House briefing room in October 2017, Kelly defends Trump’s controversial call with the widow of a fallen soldier, harshly criticizing Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson and talking about the death of his own son in combat. Though his rare display of emotions is plauded, fact-checkers note his remarks on Wilson are incorrect.

Trump’s approval rating falls below Kelly’s

A Fox News poll taken in October 2017 shows Kelly with a higher approval rating than Trump, 42 to 38 percent.

Kelly calls Robert E. Lee ‘an honorable man’

Inserting himself into a debate over the value of Confederate statues, Kelly praises Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in an interview on Oct. 30, 2017 and says the Civil War started because of “the lack of an ability to compromise.” Historians take issue with his remarks, saying it is rooted in outdated arguments about the war.

Kelly admits he doesn’t read Trump’s tweets

Speaking to reporters in Vietnam in November 2017, Kelly ignores a question about Trump’s tweets describing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “short and fat,” saying he doesn’t read them. “Believe it or not, I do not follow the tweets,” he says.

Kelly says Trump has evolved on immigration

In a Jan. 17 interview with Fox News about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), Kelly says Trump has “changed his attitude toward the DACA issue and even the wall,” calling it an “evolutionary process.” That same day he tells Democratic lawmakers that some of Trump’s immigration pledges during the campaign were “uninformed.” Trump pushes back in remarks to reporters and on Twitter.

Kelly undermines immigration compromise

After Trump and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer discuss an immigration deal to avoid a government shutdown over cheeseburgers, Kelly calls Schumer to say the proposed framework is too liberal. With no deal in place, the government shuts down hours later.

Trump reportedly complains about Kelly

A Jan. 22 article in Vanity Fair cites an unnamed Republican source who was brief on a phone call in which Trump allegedly told a friend that he was unhappy with Kelly. “I’ve got another nut job here who thinks he’s running things,” the article says Trump said. The piece also claims that Ivanka Trump is looking for a replacement, naming veteran D.C. lobbyist David Urban as a possibility.

Trump continues to praise Kelly’s performance

Trump tweets that Kelly is “doing a fantastic job” and blasts “fake reporting” in a Jan. 23 tweet, possibly a reference to the Vanity Fair article.

Kelly says some Dreamers were ‘too lazy’ to sign up

Speaking to reporters in February, Kelly says that some people brought to the U.S. as children were either “too afraid” or “too lazy to get off their asses” and sign up for the DACA program.

Kelly calls Rob Porter a ‘man of honor’

President Donald Trump
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Staff Secretary Rob Porter walk on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 29, 2017.Getty Images

Kelly defends top White House aide Rob Porter to the Daily Mail for a Feb. 6 story in which Porter’s ex-wife accuses him of domestic violence. “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him,” he says.

Kelly says he is ‘shocked’ by new allegations against Porter

A little over a day after the initial report, Kelly responds to new allegations against Porter from another ex-wife by saying that he is “shocked by the new allegations released today” and accepting his resignation. Still, he adds that he stands by his previous comments on Porter and says that “every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.”

Report claims Kelly’s influence has faded inside the White House

The Washington Post reports on April 7 that Kelly’s “credibility and his influence have been severely diminished” and that he no longer listens in on the president’s calls with foreign leaders and was not fully consulted on personnel decisions.

Trump says story is inaccurate

In a tweet the following day, Trump argues the Post story is “more fiction than fact” and “just another hit job.”

Trump deletes tweet with photo of another Kelly ‘facepalm’

In an April 12 tweet, Trump posts photos of an “Agricultural Roundtable” with elected officials in which Kelly can be seen with his hand over his forehead, an expression which some commentators note makes it look like he is doing a “facepalm.” Trump later deletes the tweet.

Report claims Trump is using personal cell phone to get around Kelly

An April 24 report from CNN claims that Trump is “increasingly relying on his personal cell phone” to contact outside advisers in order to get around Kelly, who had monitored the White House switchboard records.

Report alleges that Kelly has referred to Trump as ‘an idiot’ multiple times

NBC News reports on April 30 that Kelly has insulted the president’s intelligence, referring to him as “an idiot” multiple times while talking with other White House officials and potraying himself as “the one saving the country.” The White House denies Kelly has said this.

Kelly reportedly says he’s going to let Trump do what he wants

On June 18, Politico reports that the working relationship between Kelly and Trump has deteriorated. Citing “four people close to the President,” the outlet reports that Kelly has essentially given up on acting as a check on the President, and has concluded he should let him act unilaterally – even if it results in his impeachment.

Report emerges about Kelly’s imminent departure

The Wall Street Journal reports on June 28 that Kelly is tentatively slated to exit the White House by mid-July at the latest, and that Trump has begun consulting advisers about his replacement. Possible contenders include Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Nick Ayers, and Mick Mulvaney, who currently heads the Office of Management and Budget and is also the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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