Outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants Americans to judge his time with the Trump administration by all the things President Donald Trump didn’t do while Kelly was keeping tabs on the Oval Office, according to an interview he gave to the Los Angeles Times.
Citing the thorny question of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Trump’s urge to pull out of Nato, the Times said Kelly “defended his rocky tenure, arguing that it is best measured by what the president did not do when Kelly was at his side”.
Kelly was one of the so-called “adults in the room” – many of them generals, who supposedly restrained Trump’s worst impulses. Another, defense secretary Jim Mattis, will also leave on 1 January, his resignation over the withdrawal from Syria brought forward by a president piqued by the favourable media attention it gained.
Trump has chafed at media accounts of experienced aides acting to calm his wilder behaviour. In September, in his bestselling book Fear, the veteran reporter Bob Woodward wrote that Kelly called Trump an “idiot” and said working for him was like working in “Crazytown”. Trump responded angrily and Kelly denied the quotes.
But Kelly told the Times that working for Trump was a “bone-crushing hard job”.
Asked why he stayed for 18 months, Kelly said it was about duty:
“Military people don’t walk away,” he said, two days before walking away.