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White House Shuffle: General Kelly In, Scaramucci Out

  • Peter Heinlein

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stands in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 31, 2017.

Tweeting that there is “no chaos” in the White House, President Donald Trump brought in a no-nonsense retired Marine Corps general, John Kelly, as his chief of staff Monday to restore order to an administration shaken by six months of policy setbacks, personnel changes and media leaks.

Within hours, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci had been given his walking papers, in a sign that Kelly would assert authority in a way his predecessor Reince Priebus never was able to do as Oval Office gatekeeper.

Scaramucci's abrupt dismissal came little more than a week after he was brought in with great fanfare to head the battered White House communications shop. His hiring sent shivers through the staff as he threatened to fire anyone suspected of leaking information to the press. He quickly fell out of favor, however, after telephoning a reporter for the weekly magazine The New Yorker and unleashing an embarrassing, profanity-laced rant.

Scaramucci's departure was announced in a terse statement issued by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House communications director.Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.We wish him all the best.”

WATCH: Trump Makes More Staff Changes

A short time later, Sanders, who had been named press secretary by Scaramucci on his first day in the job, told reporters, “The president certainly felt that Anthony's comments (to The New Yorker) were inappropriate for a person in that position.”

Sanders said Scaramucci had been relieved of all duties in the White House, including a position with the Export-Import Bank that he held before being named communications director.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, July 31, 2017.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, July 31, 2017.

Starting new job, Kelly ‘looks good’

She also made clear that “the president has given full authority to General Kelly” to determine who has access to the Oval Office.

David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron who has studied the office of the chief of staff, said Kelly's first day bodes well for his mission of righting the White House ship.

“If Kelly has been granted the power to hire and fire and to control access to the president, that is a good thing for the country,” Cohen said. “Because he can restore some discipline and restore some sanity to the chaos that is gripping the White House.”

On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine applauded the changes. “I was pleased to learn of (Scaramucci’s) departure, and this shows me that General Kelly is taking firm control, and that he is not going to tolerate the kind of unacceptable behavior that Mr. Scaramucci has exhibited in just 10 days on the job.”

“I salute General Kelly for making this one of his earliest moves,” Collins said. “I believe General Kelly will impose discipline and order on a rather chaotic and conflict-ridden White House staff. This is a good move.”

WATCH: Trump Talks to Media About Kelly

Next challenge: stopping leaks

Among Kelly's biggest challenges will be stopping the leaks to reporters that have bedeviled Trump during his first six months in office, and controlling access to the Oval Office.

During his six months in the job, Reince Priebus was known to have been unable to keep a number of White House officials, including the president's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, from walking in on Trump unannounced, often with the intention of influencing administration policy. News reports this week said both Kushner and Ivanka Trump had given their blessing to Kelly's selection.

Akron University Professor Cohen says Trump “must have a different version of reality” if he thinks there is no chaos in the White House, but he also knows he needs a strong voice to control his impulsiveness.

“I think what we're going to see is over time the chief of staff and the president butting heads quite a bit,” Cohen said. “I don't know if it'll be a relationship that will be successful in the long run.”

FILE - White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus talks with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 26, 2017.
FILE - White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus talks with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 26, 2017.

Will Kelly last in new job?

Kelly's ability to succeed ultimately depends on whether Trump gives him full authority, the political scholar added, saying: “I have grave doubts whether President Trump will be able to change his management style.”

Trump praised his new chief of staff Monday during a swearing-in ceremony, saying he had no doubt Kelly would be “an absolutely superb chief of staff.”

At a Cabinet meeting a short time later, Trump effusively praised Kelly's work as secretary of homeland security — the job the general held during the first six months of the administration. “What he has done has been nothing short of miraculous,” the president exclaimed, crediting Kelly for a significant drop in illegal border crossings into the United States this year.

“Even the president of Mexico called me,” Trump said. “They said (at) their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”

The Mexican government refuted that claim, saying Trump and Pena Nieto have not recently spoken on the phone, with their last conversation taking place in person July 7 during a G-20 summit in Germany.

A statement Monday said Pena Nieto shared his government's statistics with Trump that showed in the first six months of this year the number of Mexicans repatriated from the U.S. fell 31 percent compared to the same period last year, and the number of Central and South Americans who entered Mexico fell by 47 percent.

WATCH: Trump on His Hopes for Kelly

Russia meeting statement

Also Monday, the Washington Post and ABC News reported that as Trump traveled home from the summit, he personally dictated a statement July 8 in which his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., described meeting last year with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York.

The statement dismissed the event as a “short, introductory meeting” that focused on the issue of adoptions of Russian children.

Trump Jr. later released an email exchange showing his conversation with British music publicist Rob Goldstone, who set up the meeting, with Trump saying he would “love it” if Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya had incriminating material on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as promised.

Trump Jr. has since said Veselnitskaya had no information of value about Clinton and that the meeting ended quickly.

President Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, dismissed the Post story.

“Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate and not pertinent,” he said.

Steve Herman, Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report

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