John Kelly spoke at Drew University in New Jersey Wednesday night, and Trump's former chief of staff was unusually candid about his stint at the White House under President Trump.
- Not fun: "I'm disappointed in myself for leaving, but it was a killer, I mean, no joke," the retired Marine Corps general said, per the Daily Record. He started as Trump's Homeland Security director before taking over as chief of staff in 2017. He left the post in 2018.
- Vindman: Kelly defended Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, recently fired from his National Security Council post after testifying in the impeachment trial. "He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave," Kelly said, as quoted in the Atlantic. "He went and told his boss what he just heard." Vindman was one of the people listening in on Trump's famous phone call with Ukraine's leader in July.
- Illegal? “We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order,'" said Kelly, when discussing Trump's request to have the Bidens investigated on that call. "And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.'" That's what Vindman did, he said.
- North Korea: Kelly suggested North Korea's Kim Jong Un was toying with Trump. "He will never give his nuclear weapons up," Kelly said. "I never did think Kim would do anything other than play us for a while, and he did that fairly effectively."
- Migrants: Kelly said migrants are "overwhelmingly good people," and "not all rapists," as Trump famously described them.
- Trump responds: After coverage of Kelly's speech surfaced Thursday, Trump took to Twitter. "When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn't do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head," the president wrote. "Being Chief of Staff just wasn't for him." Trump added that that Kelly's "incredible wife, Karen" once told him that Kelly had great respect for the president and would only speak well of him upon leaving the White House. "Wrong!" Trump wrote.
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