[dropcap]I[/dropcap]nfighting among those who consider themselves supporters and allies of President Trump is reaching a new crescendo focusing on White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly.
Longtime Trump ally, political operative Roger Stone is among those firing off a notice toward his old friend: Kelly should be fired.
There are reports that Kelly has expressed willingness to step down amid criticism of his handling of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned Wednesday. Porter is accused of domestic abuse, which he denies.
It’s not just Stone and company putting the President on notice. Liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd also went on the attack against Kelly today writing, “We don’t want the White House chief of staff to be the sort of person who shields and defends abusers — and then dissembles about it — simply because the abuser is a rare competent staffer.”
Meantime, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Kelly on ABC News saying, “I spoke with the president last night about this very issue and he wanted me to reemphasize to everyone, including this morning, that he has full confidence in his current chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, and that he is not actively searching for replacements.”
Some have described Kelly as a reluctant adviser to a wildcard President. He has been widely credited in the media for bringing a sense of discipline to a chaotic White House.
But some critics consider Kelly a powerful arm of the “Deep State,” the notion that government insiders operate an insular system to protect their power and policies regardless of who may be President at a particular moment in time. For them, the outcry over the Rob Porter case is as good an excuse as any to try to push Kelly out. Or—they would say—additional proof that Kelly isn’t serving President Trump well.
Stone is known for his political dirty tricks, so much so that Trump has, at times, distanced himself from the eccentric political operative even as the two remain in occasional contact, according to Stone.
Reached today by phone, Stone told me he finds there is “general unhappiness” among Trump supporters “over the entire incident with Porter.”
“I definitely think Kelly should step down,” he added. “I don’t see how he can be effective.”
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick “The Knife” Mulvaney has been mentioned as a possible successor to Kelly. On Fox News Sunday, former head of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), said Mulvaney would be a good pick.
Stone associate Christian Josi, also a political operative, has his own ideas. He thinks Kelly should be fired "today" and says other good candidates for White House chief of staff include editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, Steve Forbes; U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty; and economic analyst Larry Kudlow.
“Think about it: people like Forbes willing to populate this guy’s universe and help him succeed,” says Josi. “Versus dudes who slap around women whom bring nothing to the table. This is a scandal of epic proportion.”
Of course, each person staking out a position has his own reasons for doing so. Kelly’s supporters would likely suggest he’s being targeted in a smear campaign precisely because of his competence. Some of them suggest Kelly might be relieved to step away from a prestigious but exceedingly tumultuous job.
Then again, the media's reporting and predictions aren't always on target. It was widely reported at the end of 2017 that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be stepping down in January.
Whatever the case; the sharks are circling.[hr]