WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his post toward at the end of the year, President Trump told reporters on Saturday.
Kelly has long been rumored to be on his way out. At one point, Trump announced that Kelly would stay in his post through 2020, but that didn’t end the speculation.
Kelly has been in the post since summer 2017, when he succeeded Reince Priebus, who had a tumultuous tenure.
It’s also the latest shake up at the top levels of the administration. Trump on Friday said that he would nominate William Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general, and Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations.
“John Kelly will be leaving; I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring,'” Trump said, while calling Kelly a “great guy.”
On Friday, a number of news outlets reported that Kelly’s exit was imminent. They also have focused on his potential successor: Nick Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump said that Kelly would be leaving “toward” the end of the year as well as “at” the end of the year, a subtle distinction.
Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, was brought in to the White House to bring order to a chaotic situation of infighting and perpetual leaks. Such figures as Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived communications director, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior adviser, exited, and access to Trump was put under greater restriction.
But Trump himself didn’t get any more disciplined — he never stopped tweeting. Just weeks after Kelly arrived, Trump told reporters that both sides were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, triggered by marches led by white supremacist groups. As Trump spoke to the media in a visit to Trump Tower in New York, Kelly sat by the side, grimacing.
While some stability was brought to the White House under Kelly’s tenure, it didn’t end the leaking. He fired Omarosa Manigault, the former reality star who served in a senior communications post, but she ended up recording the conversation, which took place in the secure Situation Room. She wrote a tell-all book about her experiences.
Kelly also came under scrutiny for the way that he handled the situation with Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary accused of domestic violence.
There were reports that Kelly at several points threatened to quit his job, and he publicly joked about the difficulty of his position. He had been Secretary of Homeland Security for six months before Trump tapped him as chief of staff.
“Truly, at six months, the last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of Homeland Security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess,” he said in March at an event marking the 15th anniversary of the department.