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White House Chief of Staff Decides to Stick Around


White House chief of staff John Kelly opens the door of the Oval Office for President Donald Trump, July 31, 2018, as Trump leaves the White House in Washington, en route to Tampa, Florida, to speak at a rally.

Providing some stability amid a high rate of turnover of key personnel, the White House chief of staff has agreed to stick around for at least a couple of more years.

Retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, at the request of President Donald Trump, has committed to staying in his post until the 2020 election, according to a White House official.

There had been numerous mainstream media reports that Kelly, frustrated with West Wing disorder and isolated from critical decision-making, would soon depart.

Kelly marked one year as chief of staff on Monday, and Trump tweeted congratulations after making note of the anniversary in remarks during a swearing-in ceremony for the new Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Robert Wilkie.

"He's only there because he thinks he can serve the country and he would only stay if he actually thought he was accomplishing something," said James Jay Carafano, vice president of national security and foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation.

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.

Kelly, who previously was in Trump's cabinet as homeland security secretary, was installed as chief of staff to replace Reince Priebus at a time when the West Wing was beset by internal divisions.

"There's no question it's infinitely more disciplined than it was on day one," Carafano told VOA.

Speculation in recent months that Kelly would soon depart had become so intense that news stories mentioned names of likely successors.

The Trump administration has set a record pace for staff turnover, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

The news agency calculated the turnover rate at 37 percent through a 12-month period ending June 30, 2018, with 141 staffers having departed and 138 hired since the end of June of the previous year.

FILE - White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to members of the media at the White House in Washington, July 25, 2017.
FILE - White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to members of the media at the White House in Washington, July 25, 2017.

The numbers do not include those who arrived and exited within the one-year period, such as Anthony Scaramucci, whose tenure as White House communications director lasted 11 days.

That was not a record, though, as one of Scaramucci's predecessors in the same job, Jack Koehler, during the Reagan administration, departed after just one week when it emerged he had briefly in his childhood in Germany been a member of the Hitler Youth movement.

Carafano says Kelly has always realized he cannot personally manage Trump, but the chief of staff deserves credit for keeping policy objectives on track and supervising damage control, such as after the recent "disastrous" Helsinki news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On the other hand, "there are things that still don't work really super well, like personnel appointments," said Carafano. "I thought that was the first thing Kelly would fix when he got in there."

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