White House Issues Fiery Response to John Kelly's Barbs: 'Totally Unequipped'
After former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said the current impeachment imbroglio is the fault of the White House for not heeding his departing advice, the Trump administration fired back with a zinger on Saturday.
Kelly was a guest at the Sea Island Summit in Georgia and made the comments during an interview at the event, which was hosted by the Washington Examiner.
The retired Marine general said that while he was on his way out, and successor Mick Mulvaney, the new acting chief of staff, had not yet been picked, he told President Donald Trump that whoever followed him had to be more than a rubber stamp for the president.
“I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached,” Kelly said.
“That was almost 11 months ago, and I have an awful lot of, to say the least, second thoughts about leaving … It pains me to see what’s going on because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of, all over the place.”
Kelly said Trump desperately needed someone who would separate good ideas from bad and control impulses that could result in political troubles, including impeachment.
“Someone has got to be a guide that tells [the president] that you either have the authority or you don’t, or Mr. President, don’t do it,” Kelly said. “Don’t hire someone that will just nod and say, ‘That’s a great idea Mr. President.’ Because you will be impeached.”
Kelly depicted the Trump White House as a shambles.
“The system that should be in place, clearly — the system of advising, bringing in experts in, having these discussions with the president so he can make an informed decision, that clearly is not in place. And I feel bad that I left.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham fired back with a pair of statements — one from her and one from Trump.
“I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President,” Grisham told reporters on Saturday, according to CNN.
The president denied he was given the advice Kelly said he gave him.
“John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does,” Trump said in a statement to the network.
On Saturday, Kelly also said that the president’s decision to pull troops from northern Syria was a “catastrophically bad idea,” the Washington Examiner reported.
“It didn’t happen while I was there — and a couple of other people recently left the administration and then he went with his instinct,” he said. “But it was, on a number of levels, the wrong thing to do and it has opened the way for the Russians to be very, very influential in the Middle East.”
“I want to get out of the endless wars, too. The problem is, the other side, even if we wanted to surrender, will not take our surrender. They hate us because of who we are, the way we live our lives, the way we worship our God.”
“What was working in Syria was that for very little investment, the Kurds were doing all the fighting, the vast majority of the dying, and we were providing intelligence and fire support assistance. And we were winning,” Kelly said.
Trump, however, defended his decision Sunday in announcing the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to a White House news release.
“Look, we don’t want to keep soldiers between Syria and Turkey for the next 200 years. They’ve been fighting for hundreds of years. We’re out,” Trump said.
“They’re going to have to make their own decision.
“The Kurds have worked along incredibly with us, but in all fairness, it was much easier dealing with the Kurds after they went through three days of fighting, because that was a brutal three days. And if I — we would have said to the Kurds, ‘Hey, do you mind moving over seven miles?’ Because, you know, they were in the middle, mostly. So you have seven or eight miles. ‘Could you mind moving over?'”
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