Echoing the Marines’ credo of “God, Country, Corps,” Kelly said he expects all of them to put country first, the president second, and their own needs and priorities last. He stressed work ethic. And he sharply warned them against leaking, an obsession of Trump’s. Even if it may seem innocuous to pass along some bit of classified information to someone without a clearance, he said, it’s a crime.
Since his swearing-in on Monday, Kelly has moved swiftly to bring order to a chaotic and unruly White House, according to accounts from 12 administration aides and outside observers.
After moving over from the Department of Homeland Security, Kelly fired communications director Anthony Scaramucci just ten days after Trump had brought him in, and dismissed two National Security Council aides who were thought to be divisive or acting outside the chain of command.
Kelly’s influence was seen in Trump’s unusual late-night statement on Friday in support of his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, with whom he’s been at odds on and off for months. Both Kelly and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner have helped shore up McMaster and resist calls for his ouster by some on the far right, who sought to question the Army lieutenant general’s support for Israel or decry his views as too conventional or globalist for Trump’s brand. Trump backed McMaster as a #FireMcMaster campaign took flight on Twitter.
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In his first week, Kelly also quickly moved to take control of the door to the Oval Office. His predecessor, Reince Priebus, seemed unable to stop White House staffers from popping in unannounced to see the president — dropping news articles on his desk that he would love or hate, sharing ideas for tweets, or just getting valuable face time with the boss. Trump, who’s known to be easily distracted, would wave-in the visitors, even as his scheduled appointments sometimes backed up. Kelly insists that anyone who wants to see the president now must go through him.
Perhaps even more important, Kelly is testing his authority to tame Trump’s sometimes reckless tweeting habits. While Kelly isn’t vetting every presidential tweet, Trump has shown a willingness to consult with his chief of staff before hitting “send” on certain missives that might cause an international uproar or lead to unwelcome distractions, according to three people familiar with the interactions. Kelly has been “offering a different way to say the same thing,” the person said.
Trump has made it clear, however, that he reserves the right to ignore advice on tweets. On Aug. 3, Trump lashed out at Congress for passing a bill that limited the president’s power to lift sanctions on Russia. “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”
Since then, most of Trump’s tweets have been more buttoned down — thanking supporters or praising himself for the strong stock market.