Among the big challenges that newly minted Chief of Staff John Kelly faces, repairing relationships inside the Republican Party is high on the list.
President Donald Trump’s already tenuous relationship with the establishment of the Republican Party was thrown into further doubt following the ouster of former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
Priebus’ presence in the White House was once seen as among the few tethers still binding Trump to the Republican National Committee as he was one of the members of the president’s senior staff with the most experience in Washington politics.
Someone who could play peacemaker on Capitol Hill, Priebus utilized his close ties to key Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., but senior White House officials said his influence over time diminished within the West Wing.
This is where Kelly comes in: a military man tasked with getting a chaotic White House back on track. He exercised his influence on his first day on the job with the resignation of White House communications director and Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci just days after his hiring.
The resignation came amid concerns over Scaramucci’s addition to the West Wing’s senior staff. He put the acrimony and tensions among White House factions on full display last week when he took aim at Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon in a foul-mouthed exchange with a reporter from The New Yorker.
Sources inside the White House told ABC News that Scaramucci offered his resignation Monday morning to the newly sworn in Kelly, with a request to be redeployed as chief strategy officer at the Export-Import Bank, to allow Kelly to assert his leadership in the West Wing.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that Kelly “has the full authority to operate within the White House and all staff will report to him.”
Though Kelly has little legislative experience, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is confident the retired Marine Corps general will be able to communicate with members of Congress to effectively push the president’s legislative agenda forward.
“He understands the Congress very well,” Gingrich told ABC News, recalling Kelly’s experience as Marine liaison to the House of Representatives when he led the chamber. “Kelly brings order and effectiveness to White House operations. … It is a deliberate change.”
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