Trump says John Kelly has a 'military and legal obligation' to 'keep his mouth shut'
Feb. 13, 2020
President Trump said that his former chief of staff John Kelly needs to keep his “mouth shut” after he criticized the president during a public event Wednesday night.
“When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head,” wrote Trump in a pair of tweets Thursday morning. “Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do. His incredible wife, Karen, who I have a lot of respect for, once pulled me aside & said strongly that ‘John respects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you.’ Wrong!”
Kelly criticized the president during a Q&A session at Drew University in New Jersey . Kelly stated that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who was dismissed last week from the National Security Council on Trump’s orders, was simply doing his duty when he reported on the president’s phone call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that was the basis of the impeachment inquiry.
“He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said of Vindman. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.”
Kelly was also critical of Trump’s intervention in the military justice system on behalf of Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who was convicted of posing with the corpse of an enemy combatant. Trump’s meddling to lessen Gallagher’s punishment led to the resignation of the Secretary of the Navy. Kelly said, “The idea that the commander in chief intervened there, in my opinion, was exactly the wrong thing to do. Had I been there, I think I could have prevented it.”
Kelly also expressed doubts about Trump’s handling of negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“He will never give his nuclear weapons up,” Kelly said. “Again, President Trump tried—that’s one way to put it. But it didn’t work. I’m an optimist most of the time, but I’m also a realist, and I never did think Kim would do anything other than play us for a while, and he did that fairly effectively.
Kelly, a former four-star general whose son was killed in action in Afghanistan, was Trump’s original appointee as Secretary of Homeland Security. After Reince Priebus was fired as White House chief of staff in the summer of 2017, Kelly replaced him and served until January 2019, when Trump fired him after multiple stories of friction within the White House, including an April 2018 NBC News report that Kelly had called Trump an “idiot” multiple times. Kelly said he had been urged by his wife to take the job with the Trump administration.
During his comments, Kelly also mentioned immigration, an area in which he implemented many of the White House policies.
“In fact, they’re overwhelmingly good people,” said Kelly of immigrants, disputing Trump’s description. “They’re not all rapists and they’re not all murderers. And it’s wrong to characterize them that way. I disagreed with the president a number of times.”
While serving as Homeland Security chief, Kelly was in charge of the White House’s first Muslim bans . He also first floated the idea of using child separation at the border, mentioning the idea in a March 2017 interview with CNN. When asked if Homeland Security officials would separate children from their parents to deter illegal immigration, Kelly replied , “I am considering exactly that.” Kelly reiterated this stance in a May interview with NPR, stating that it wasn’t cruel or heartless to separate families because “The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”
Kelly was a sometimes pugnacious and outspoken official, who refused to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., for attacking a speech she had given, even after a videotape proved he had completely mischaracterized her remarks.
During Kelly’s tenure, outsiders viewed him as one of the “adults” in the administration they hoped would restrain Trump’s impulsive governing style, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
All are now gone from the administration.
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