Chief of Staff's Next Task: Repairing Ties With Democrats

John Kelly already has reached out to Pelosi and Schumer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2017 12:04 PM CDT
White House chief of staff John Kelly.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – New Trump chief of staff John Kelly has won generally rave reviews for setting a more disciplined tone within the White House, a shift that includes the ouster of the volatile Anthony Scaramucci. Now, the Daily Beast reports that he's already begun work on what might be a trickier task: repairing relations with Democrats. Spokespersons for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer confirm that Kelly called them both over the weekend as a first step in attempting to ease tensions. As one White House official says, alienating Democrats unnecessarily makes little sense if Trump hopes to move forward with tax reform and other components of his agenda. More coverage:

  • Not all rosy: The DB also points out, however, that some Democrats, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, are wary of Kelly given his short stint in charge of Homeland Security. They cite roundups of undocumented immigrants, a lack of progress in protecting young "Dreamers," and Kelly's role in implementing the president's travel ban on travelers from certain countries.

  • His big tests: Axios lays out Kelly's five biggest challenges, the first one being whether he can recruit "sane, successful, proficient Republicans" to join the Trump team. That's especially true given that another big wave of departures can be expected at the end of the first year. Another challenge will be reining in Trump from "petty tussles" and "pointless tweets."
  • Podesta's advice: John Podesta, who served as Bill Clinton's chief of staff, writes in the Washington Post that he would have advised Kelly not to take the job. Podesta views Kelly's biggest challenge as protecting Robert Mueller and the integrity of the Russian investigation from White House attacks. Podesta, however, writes that Kelly has one key advantage: "The president needs Kelly more than Kelly needs him." That is, Trump can't afford to have him walk.
  • Relations with the media: Politico reports that Kelly has a healthy respect for reporters going back to his days as a general, though he's known to bristle if he feels journalists aren't covering issues fairly. His generally good relations, however, raise the tricky question of how he'll handle a president who routinely berates the media.
  • Confronting Trump: The AP begins a Kelly story with an anecdote of him confronting the president over aspects of Trump's travel ban when Kelly was still in charge of Homeland Security. At one point, Kelly asked all other advisers to leave the room so he could speak frankly, and raised voices could then be heard through the thick Oval Office door.
  • Similar anecdote: Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker reporter who figured in the Scaramucci downfall, thinks Kelly's ability to get the "Mooch" fired bodes well. He also reports that Kelly, again while running Homeland Security, says he achieved the impressive feat of getting Trump to scale down his ambitions for a border wall to a lesser "barrier" with high-tech surveillance and fencing.
(Read more John Kelly stories.)

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