White House chief of staff John Kelly strongly denied an NBC News report Monday that he called President Donald Trump an “idiot.”
“I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” said Kelly, who added that Trump “always knows where I stand.”
“I am committed to the president, his agenda, and our country,” Kelly added. “This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes.”
NBC cited “eight current and former White House officials” as sources for its piece.
The specific context for the alleged “idiot” remark was a meeting between Kelly and lawmakers earlier this year over the issue of border security and the Obama-era Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program.
The retired general reportedly said Trump “doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot.”
A senior administration official, who was at the meeting, told Fox News Kelly never called Trump an “idiot.”
The idea that Trump does not understand DACA, at least in broad terms, seems somewhat incredulous, given he issued an executive order last fall calling for it to end and has spoken often about the issue, before and since.
The NBC story — written in part by its White House correspondent Kristen Welker — further claims that Kelly had to talk Trump out of removing U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula.
“For Kelly, the exchange underscored the reasoning behind one of his common refrains, which multiple officials described as some version of ‘I’m the one saving the country,'” the network reported.
“The strong implication being ‘if I weren’t here we would’ve entered WWIII or the president would have been impeached,’” one former senior White House official told NBC.
The lengthy NBC piece comes as Trump has seen his job approval numbers on the rise, and the commander-in-chief is receiving praise for the role he has played in bringing about peace talks between North and South Korea.
A new Gallup poll finds Trump at a 11-month high of 42 percent, up from 38 percent earlier this month.
Trump’s approval hit rating 50 percent or more multiple times during the past month in the Rasmussen daily tracking poll, which is the highest it had been since April of last year.
On Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested Trump should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in bringing about the denuclearization talks on the Korean peninsula and the possibility of an official end to decades-long war between North and South Korea.
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