Now that Steve Bannon is gone, the job of Donald Trump's enabler-in-chief has fallen to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. As Vox's Dylan Matthews reminds us, there are several reasons why Kelly should have been booted from the job months ago.
I can’t tell you the exact moment it became clear that retired Gen. John F. Kelly had to resign his position as White House chief of staff.
Perhaps it was in October, when he lied and smeared Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Kelly claimed that during a dedication ceremony for a new FBI office in Miami, a ceremony where he and others were focused on the heroism of the two slain FBI agents after whom the office was named, Wilson “stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building.”
Video of the event confirmed that Kelly was lying — Wilson didn’t take credit for getting the funding. She graciously extended credit to her colleagues, including Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Díaz-Balart, and devoted much of her speech to honoring the two agents for whom the office was named. Kelly was lying to smear her for criticizing President Trump — indeed, for criticizing Trump’s treatment of a war widow.
Compounding the issue was White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters it was ”highly inappropriate” to call Kelly on his lies — because he’s a retired general. It was a shocking statement, one that undermined norms of civilian control of and oversight over the military. Kelly should have at least told the press he disagreed with Sanders, that he does not believe he is above scrutiny because of his military record. He did not.
Or maybe his time was up when he praised Robert E. Lee, who committed treason to defend the institution of slavery and the subjugation of black Americans, as an “honorable” man and blamed the Civil War on a “lack of compromise.” Or perhaps it was when he decried some DREAMers who failed to secure protection from deportation (in some cases because they feared that if they told the federal government they were undocumented, they could be deported) as “too lazy to get off their asses.” It was a shocking insult to more than a million Americans, who have lived here almost all their lives and contributed time and again to their communities and their nation.
But it became extremely, abundantly clear that Kelly had to go when he went to bat for White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
Let's be perfectly clear about the Porter story: neither Rob Porter nor John Kelly are the victims here. Porter's ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, were beaten, terrorized, abused, and irreparably harmed by this monster. They came forward to stop this brutish lout from being involved in our nation's executive branch.
John Kelly knew about it for months and promoted Porter anyway, as did White House Chief Legal Counsel Don McGahn.
Kelly knew all of this. Both Holderness and Willoughby were interviewed by the FBI in January 2017 as part of the hiring process for Porter, and White House counsel Don McGahn learned of the allegations the same month. McGahn took no action, nor did he take any action when the ex-girlfriend contacted him in November. The FBI told the White House about the abuse in June 2017, and by the fall it was clear the allegations were preventing Porter from getting a security clearance.
“When McGahn informed Kelly this fall about the reason for the security clearance holdup, he agreed that Porter should remain and said he was surprised to learn that the 40-year-old had ex-wives,” the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Beth Reinhard report. “Kelly handed Porter more responsibilities to control the flow of information to the president.”
A few weeks ago, Kelly was informed by the FBI that they were recommending that Porter be denied full security clearance, and recommended the same about a number of other White House aides who, like Porter, had been working on interim clearances. “The White House chief-of-staff told confidants in recent weeks that he had decided to fire anyone who had been denied a clearance — but had yet to act on that plan before the Porter allegations were first reported this week,” Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports.
After all that, and even after the scandal broke in the news media, Kelly was still pushing within the White House to keep Porter on board. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported that Kelly wanted Porter to “stay and fight.” Publicly, while Kelly said he was “shocked by the new allegations” and proclaimed, “There is no place for domestic violence in our society,” he reiterated, “I believe every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.” When the scandal broke, he told the Daily Mail that Porter was “a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Again, these allegations against Porter were known from day one. Not only was Porter hired, he was promoted to a sensitive position like White House Staff Secretary where he could read classified information without a security clearance.
And just think, there's dozens of other Trump staffers who should have security clearance but do not.
Just to top it all off, Porter was dating another member of Trump's staff, Hope Hicks. He was her boss. And guess who Trump blames for this mess?
All of these clowns need to go, starting with Trump.