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Who Is General John Kelly, Trump’s New Chief of Staff?

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/28/2017 Max Kutner

Video by Reuters

General John F. Kelly is taking over for Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, President Donald Trump announced via a tweet on Friday afternoon. The news came after days of reports about tensions between Priebus and the administration's new director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci.

Kelly since January has been secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, after Trump nominated him for the position. The 67-year-old Kelly is a retired Marine Corps general who held senior command positions in Iraq and served as the combatant commander of the United States Southern Command. He was also senior military assistant to two secretaries of defense, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. 

Kelly has taken a hard stance on border security and support for the military. He has supported Trump's plan to construct a wall along the United States border with Mexico, calling it "essential" in order to stem "tremendous threats," though he has said that a physical barrier alone "will not do the job." He has also spoken about the threat posed by extremists, saying, "It's everywhere. It's constant. It's nonstop."

The retired general grew up in Boston and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970. He later attended the University of Massachusetts and returned to the Marines. He is married, and three of his children have served in the Marines and one has been an FBI agent. "I believe in America and the principles upon which our country and way of life are guaranteed," he said in January during his confirmation hearing to become homeland security secretary. "I believe in respect, tolerance, and diversity of opinion. I have a profound respect for the rule of law and will always strive to uphold it. I have never had a problem speaking truth to power, and I firmly believe that those in power deserve full candor and my honest assessment and recommendations."

© Provided by IBT Media Minutes after the announcement on Friday, Trump tweeted, "I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and dedication to his country. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!"

Kelly and Priebus brought very different backgrounds to the White House. While the new chief of staff has vast military experience, Priebus came from the GOP establishment, having been the longest-serving chairman of the Republican National Committee. Prior to becoming the chairman in 2011, he had been its general counsel.

Speculation about Priebus's ouster had grown since the hiring of Scaramucci. The new communications director told CNN on Thursday about his relationship with Priebus: "I don't know if this is repairable or not." He also toldThe New Yorker's Ryan Lizza that he believed Priebus was leaking information and called him a "paranoid schizoprehnic." Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Fox News co-host who had dinner with Trump, Scaramucci and others on Wednesday, also reportedly told the president that Priebus needed to go.

Priebus resigned on Thursday, CNN reported shortly after Trump's announcement about Kelly, citing a source close to Priebus.


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